It would be entirely too easy and more than a bit cliché to say Saturday night's game against Wisconsin wasn't a fair 5-on-5 Big Ten battle.
On the 20th anniversary of the passing of Chris Street the Hawks fed off the emotions of the evening to hand the Badgers (13-5, 4-1) a 70-66 setback..
“There was an energy level in the building like I've never seen before,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
Street lost his life on January 19, 1993 in an accident east of Iowa City after pulling out in front of a Johnson County snow plow on a bitterly cold, stormy winter evening. On Saturday every member of the Iowa team warmed up wearing special shirts as a tribute to the Indianola native and wore his intials and uniform number on a patch. Longtime Iowa basketball aide Jerry Strom draped Street's gold No. 40 jersey over the first chair on the team's bench. The evening's halftime program was built around honoring his memory as nearly half of the Iowa players to have won the Chris Street Award joined the Street family on the Carver-Hawkeye court following a short but poignant video tribute.
“It is a big night for us,” Mike Street said prior to Iowa improving to 13-5 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play. “We certainly appreciate what the university has done and what the fans have done. Without the fans, it probably doesn’t happen, either.”
The Hawks fed off the energy of a packed house to build a 34-18 lead at the half then held on in a roller coaster final 20 minute period.
“Looking at the percentages,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, “we didn't do anything to discourage Iowa in the first 30 minutes.”
The final 10 were another story.
Wisconsin methodically chipped away at Iowa's double digit lead until Devyn Marble nailed a clutch three-point attempt with 2:36 left to play to give the Hawks the shallowest amount of breathing room with a 60-51 lead. The shake-and-bake triple was in the cards all along according to Marble, who out-thought Ryan Evans in the process.
“He was expecting me to drive on him because he had four fouls,” Marble said. “I always think every shot is going in.”
A three-pointer by Wisconsin's George Marshall with 24 seconds left to play made it 66-63 but Marble and Aaron White each hit two free throws to ice the victory.
“Whitey's great at getting to the line and putting guys in a tough spot,” said Eric May, who grabbed 5 of Iowa's 33 rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
White finished with 17 points to lead the Hawks in scoring. Marble had 13 with freshmen guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons adding 11 and 10, respectively.
“I think the great thing is you never know which four it's going to be (on a given night) and that's the beauty of our team,” McCaffery said. “It could easily have been Zach (McCabe) and Melsahn or Josh (Oglseby).”
Marshall led all scorers with 20 points in 15 minutes, shooting 7-of-10 from the floor. Sam Dekker was the only other Badger to crack double figures with 13.
Facing a short turnaround, Iowa must now ready itself to face Ohio State in Columbus Tuesday evening. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan State on Saturday and will likely be loaded for bear when Iowa comes calling at Value City Arena.
“They cleaned our clocks the last two times we played them,” McCaffery said.