February 8, 2013
Inside the numbers
Again, I write to you, and again, it comes on the heels of another painfully close Iowa defeat.
This time, it was against Wisconsin in a game that the Hawkeyes appeared to be in control of with a 51-42 lead with just over six minutes left. Josh Oglesby's potential game-winning try at the buzzer rimmed out, and everything unraveled from there, ultimately resulting in a Badgers victory in double-overtime.
It's a trend that, again, has become all too familiar for Hawkeye fans this season. Many missed opportunities were to blame for the loss - primarily not closing the game out with a lead late in regulation.
It was also another chapter in the increasingly evolving odyssey known as Devyn Marble's 2012-13 season.
Marble was about as absent as a player playing 18 minutes and scoring two points could be, going 1 for 10 from the field, though he did add four rebounds. His one basket was a put-back layup, and while cheap, it was also crafty and a play that you thought could possibly give him confidence going forward in the game.
It didn't work. Coach Fran McCaffery wasn't necessarily displeased with the effort though:
"I thought he was in a flow," McCaffery told reporters. "He was shooting the ball, driving the ball, attacking the basket, nothing went down for him. His line wasn't good. At least he was aggressive early in the game. And that's what I want him to be."
The only possible indication of Marble's aggressiveness was that eight of his 10 shots came inside the 3-point line. But he didn't attempt one free throw, something that's not indicative of aggressiveness, though the officiating was inconsistent for both teams at times.
Is something wrong with Marble? Clearly he's a bit "sideways" as McCaffery might say.
With the loss of Matt Gatens, Marble was primed to take over as Iowa's go-to player and top scorer this season. That role seemed to be in good hands at the end of last year as Marble's 11.5 points per game and 43.6 field-goal percentage were solid hikes from the 5.7 and 37.9 percent shooting his freshman season.
He teased Iowa with exactly how much damage he could do in the NIT second round loss at Oregon, dropping a career-high 31 points and drilling 7 of 8 3-pointers.
He largely lived up to the high expectations in the non-conference portion of the schedule this season, leading Iowa in scoring at 15.7 ppg while shooting 45.4 percent from the floor, including a 20-of-51 clip from beyond the arc. He also averaged 6.1 free-throw attempts per game.
His start to the conference stretch wasn't ideal with a 1-for-14 performance against Indiana, but he still got to the free-throw line enough to finish with 14 points, a mark he repeated in the next game against Michigan.
But Marble injured his left toe and ankle prior to the Michigan State game on Jan. 10, and was forced to sit out the game as a result. Whether the injury has continued to linger or Marble is simply in a mental funk is a mystery, but he hasn't been nearly the same since.
In seven games, Marble's averaging just 7.3 points while shooting 26.7 percent from the field and hitting only 3 of his 20 3-point attempts. The same player who attempted 19 free throws while scoring 30 against Norhtern Iowa on Dec. 15 is averaging only 2.3 free-throw attempts per game - perhaps a great a sign as any that something with Marble is amiss.
Again, whether it's physical or mental, it's clear that Marble is not quite as comfortable in attack mode as he normally is, not scoring more than 14 points since posting 27 against South Carolina State on Dec. 19.
Unfortunately, the trend hasn't shown signs of improvement recently. He's 8 for 44 from the floor over his last five games (18.2 percent), including a combined 1-for-12 mark between the Minnesota and Wisconsin games in which he played only 17 and 18 minutes, respectively.
The 17 against the Gophers were the fewest for Marble since he recorded 11 minutes of time as a freshman at Northwestern on Feb. 17, 2011. We're talking about a guy who averaged 29.5 minutes per game over his last four games as a freshman seeing a dramatic minute decrease two years later when he's the team's anointed star.
Whether it is a physical hurdle ailing Marble, or simply a mental roadblock that appears in front of all players at some point, one thing is likely - Iowa's already quickly fading NCAA Tournament hopes will soon be gone if he doesn't snap out of his funk.
In the mean time, Aaron White has elevated his play somewhat to fill in for Marble as Iowa's leading man. Here's a few figures on White's importance to the Hawkeyes this year:
-Iowa is 8-1 this season when White scores 16 or more.
-White has posted at least 17 points in each of Iowa's three Big Ten wins.
-White's average dips to 11.4 points in Iowa's losses this year, with his shooting percentage falling to 42.4 percent.
-White's ability - or at times, inability - to knock down free throws has had a strong correlation with Iowa's success. A 72.2 percent free-throw shooter on the season, he's hitting just 51.2 percent of his shots from the charity stripe in Iowa's defeats.
-White has scored in double figures in all but one of Iowa's Big Ten games, the Jan. 6 loss at Michigan being the only exception.
As good a job as White has done, his game isn't necessarily tailored for him to function as a team's "go-to guy," at least not at this point in his career. He has a difficult time creating if he's not drawing a foul and is instead best on the fast break and in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations.
The Iowa offense won't come near its full potential without both White and Marble playing well simultaneously.
You can follow Jordan Garretson on Twitter here.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial