Yesterday at Carver Hawkeye Arena, Devyn Marble may finally have broken out of his slump.
Marble put up 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds and five assists. Perhaps most importantly, he did this while playing 30 minutes.
While those numbers are not eye-popping, they are very good. When put in context of what he has been able to accomplish as of late, they are excellent.
When Marble has his offensive game going, the Iowa offense is a different animal. There is much more ball movement, more confidence and just flat out more points.
In Iowa's previous five games, in which the Hawkeyes went 1-4, Marble's high scoring mark was 12 points on 2-for-11 shooting at Purdue. He hadn't reached five rebounds in any of those games either. In Iowa's previous two games before Northwestern, at Minnesota and Wisconsin, Marble played only 17 and 18 minutes, respectively, and scored two points. That is two points combined.
This is not to say Iowa can not win when Marble doesn't play well. He didn't play at all against Michigan State, and Iowa had a lead in the final minutes of that game, which has become a common theme. The Hawks should have won one or both of the games against Minnesota and Wisconsin and would have if it were not for last minute breakdowns.
In the losses at Ohio State and Purdue, Marble shot 2-for-11 in both games, and both were single-digit losses on the road, with the Purdue loss coming in overtime.
So yes, Iowa can win without an effective Devyn Marble, but it sure makes things a lot harder. They have won a couple big games when Marbe has no-showed. Against Iowa State, for example, Marble had only six points, four rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes. Yet, Iowa knocked off their in-state foe despite Marble's struggles.
How different has Marble performed in the Iowa wins and losses? In Iowa's 15 wins, Marble is averaging 15 points per game, while in the nine losses, he is putting up only 8.7 points. Five of those losses were by less than six points.
Games in which Marble scores 13 or more points, Iowa is averaging 76 points per game, while in games where he has scored less than 13, Iowa is only at 64.1 points per game.
Of course, Iowa is not invincible when Marble does play well. In two of those losses, against Virginia Tech and Indiana, Marble played two of his better all-around games of the season. Against the Hokies he had an impressive 18 points, seven assists and seven boards, while against Indiana, he had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Obviously, a lot of other factors come into play in each game and each possession. But it is pretty clear, both by the numbers and by the old-fashioned eye test, how much better Iowa is offensively when Marble has some semblance of offensive confidence.
Last year, when Iowa won some crucial road games against the likes of Wisconsin and Minnesota, it was Devyn Marble who was the closer. Marble is the best option on the Iowa roster at creating his own shot and slashing into the lane for either a jumper or a dish off to an open teammate.
It is too late to think of what could have been in Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin had Marble performed like he is capable of. There is still time for Iowa to go on a nice month-long run and make a play to be on the bubble come March, but it starts and ends with Devyn Marble.
If the marble from Saturday shows up, Iowa could see 20 wins. If the Marble from Minnesota shows up, Iowa will be lucky to get to 18 wins. Eric May, the lone senior, may be the captain, but it is time for Marble to take the reins of this team in February and into March.