Zach McCabe was asked point blank if last year's Iowa team would have won Saturday' night's contest against Gardner-Webb.
Zach McCabe finished Saturday's game against Gardner-Webb with 8 points but hit two key 3-pointers to help Iowa edge the Runnin' Bulldogs. (File photo/Justin O'Brien)
“No, I don't,” McCabe said after Iowa rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to defeat the Runnin' Bulldogs, 65-56, in front of 11, 852 fans. “We're a completely different team. We have a different mindset. We've learned from the past.”
Gardner-Webb plays in the same conference as Campbell, a team that came into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and stunned the Hawks last season with a 77-61 wakeup call around this same time in the non-conference portion of the schedule. This time around the Southland Conference foe couldn't close out the Hawkeyes, folding under an intense second half flurry from the Hawks.
“Whoa, that's an ugly number: 47-18,” Gardner-Webb coach Chris Holtmann said on seeing the second half scoring for both teams. “I might burn this.”
The Runnin' Bulldogs, playing without two starters, led 38-18 at the half thanks to fearless play and an aggressive attacking style on both ends of the floor. They owned Iowa in every statistical category from rebounds (24-18) to turnovers (6-11) and assists (6-4).
But McCaffery and the Hawks kept their cool. There was no blistering halftime tirade according to McCaffery.
“I didn't speak to them any louder than I'm speaking to you right now,” McCaffery said. “I said, This is what we need to. We broke it down on offense; we broke it down on defense; we broke down the press, personnel, and let's go do it.”
His players backed him up.
“He's calm a lot too,” said McCabe.. “We knew what we needed to do.”
And they did it.
Where other Iowa teams of past seasons would have accepted their fate, this team showed poise and resolve in the face of adversity. After going 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half the Hawks knocked down six triples in the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers from McCabe with 12 minutes left that cut the Gardner-Webb lead to six.
McCabe wasn't the only Iowa player to answer the bell when the team's collective back was against the wall. Josh Oglesby, mired in a 1-for-13 shooting slump from beyond the arc, caught fire with three three-pointers.
“But the thing for him that is so important to me, he was guarding their best offensive player,” McCaffery said. “He did a great job on him. Then just when everybody in the building thought he was going to shoot it, he makes a great pass to Devyn Marble at the basket.
“Josh Oglesby is a player.”
Freshman Adam Woodbury also drew praise after the game for his enthusiasm and hustle.
“We knew what we had to do and that was play our own game,” Woodbury said. “It shows a lot about the character of this team. It takes a lot to come from 23 down (and win).”
Four Hawks finished the game in double-digits, led by Aaron White and Oglesby with 13 each. Woodbury added 12 and Devyn Marble enjoyed a quite night, at least by his standards, with 11.
“He has the perfect demeanor to play this game,” McCaffery said of Marble, who entered play Saturday night averaging 17 points per game. “He was struggling. He had four turnovers, was driving into packs of people, missing shots he normally makes. It just doesn't faze him. He'll go make a play defensively. He'll get a rebound, he'll make a run or he'll hit a three. He just has tremendous confidence in himself.”
The test of Iowa's resolve came at a critical time as the team prepares to head to Mexico this week to face Western Kentucky and either Wichita State or DePaul in the Cancun Challenge.
“I think it's absolutely critical, because you know this won't be the last time it's tested,” McCaffery said. “ It's going to be tested almost every game. You have to be able to prove that you can come back. You get behind; you've got to come back. You can't rattle. You've got to understand what's necessary.”
Where last year's Hawks would have rattled, this edition rolled.
“We're a little deeper,” said White. “A little more confident.”