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Hawkeyes cruise by Broncs in season-opening win

Posted on 09. Nov, 2012 by in Iowa Basketball

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By Brendan Stiles

HawkeyeDrive.com

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Coming into this season, the Iowa Hawkeyes knew they couldn’t afford any off nights during non-conference play if they want to make a serious run at potentially playing in the NCAA Tournament next March.

Friday night, Iowa passed its first test, manhandling Texas-Pan American inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 86-55. The Hawkeyes are 1-0 and still play three straight at home before leaving the country to play in the Cancun Challenge.

“All I could ask for was the ‘W,'” said freshman guard Mike Gesell, who not only made his Hawkeye debut Friday, but was also celebrating his 19th birthday. “It was fun going out there. I think all the guys, top to bottom, played hard all night and you can’t ask for more.”

Much like its exhibition game against Quincy last weekend, Iowa found itself jumping out to a quick 13-2 lead in the early going. Providing the initial spark was junior forward Zach McCabe, who knocked down 3-pointer on the Hawkeyes’ first offensive possession and then followed that at the other end with a rebound.

McCabe finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. More impressively, he was 4-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I was focused and ready to go,” McCabe said. “I’ve been waiting for this for awhile now. It has been a long offseason and just having this first game here, it’s just exciting. I’m ready to keep going.”

McCabe was one of four Hawkeyes to reach double-figures scoring. Sophomore forward Aaron White led the way with 16 points and also had five rebounds, as well as a team-high four steals. Junior guard Devyn Marble dropped 11 points and freshman center Adam Woodbury emerged with 10 points, three rebounds and three blocked shots in his Hawkeye debut.

Despite having a reputation as a poor free-throw shooter in high school, Woodbury’s first career point came at the charity stripe Friday night and two days after head coach Fran McCaffery said he had been shooting close to 80 percent from the free-throw line in practice.

“I’m trying to give you guys less to talk about,” Woodbury said jokingly. “I’m just trying to improve every day. It has been a lot of hard work in the gym with Coach [Kirk] Speraw. Hopefully you guys can see the improvements I make. If I can make them in the game, that’s when it counts.”

One player who just missed reaching double-figures in scoring but played as well as anyone else on the court Friday night was junior forward Melsahn Basabe. Playing 17 minutes off the bench, Basabe had nine points — seven of which came in the first half — and also hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds. Perhaps even more impressively though was Basabe’s ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line.

“His energy level was really good,” McCaffery said. “You know, when you see him running the floor, blocking shots, posting hard, getting to the free-throw line, I mean, that’s what he does. I was proud of him today.”

Part of Iowa’s game plan offensively was attacking the rim to the point where Texas-Pan American would go to foul and send the Hawkeyes to the line. Iowa finished the game shooting 25 free throws, but 20 of those free throws came in the first half. In fact, there was still over 10 minutes left in the first half when the Hawkeyes first reached the double bonus.

“When we got inside, they really did just foul us,” White said. “They didn’t let us get up easy. But really, what they were giving us was that in-between game. The pull-up game. They ran us off the 3-point line and wanted us to shoot the in-between game. But I thought we did great.

“We didn’t have any bad charge calls where we just went in there wild and trying to throw difficult passes. So I thought we did pretty good with how they were playing defensively.”

Iowa’s next test comes Nov. 12 against Central Michigan, who is now coached by Keno Davis, the son of former Iowa coach Tom Davis. Tip-off from Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for 6:30 p.m. Central and the game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.

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