NCAA BK

14th-ranked Hawkeyes rolling behind evolved Marble

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)

Senior guard Devyn Marble is playing like the star Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has been searching for.

Marble is averaging a career-high 16.4 points per game for the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) - and he has been at his best against Iowa's toughest opponents.

Marble scored 22 points in Sunday's win over then-No. 3 Ohio State, earning the first Big Ten player of the week award of his career and leading Iowa to perhaps its biggest win in McCaffery's four seasons. Marble and the Hawkeyes host Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) on Sunday.

''I think you're seeing a guy who is clearly very comfortable in terms of how we use him. He's got supreme confidence right now. His teammates have confidence in him. I have confidence in him,'' McCaffery said. ''He makes plays for other people. He's not a selfish guy. But if he needs to be the guy, he can be. So I'm just really excited for him in terms of how his game has evolved.''

Iowa has a deep roster and has not had any trouble rolling past overmatched teams. That doesn't work as well against more talented opponents, and the Hawkeyes have leaned on Marble heavily in those games.

Marble had 30 points in an overtime win over Xavier and 24 in an OT loss to Villanova. He had 17 points in a win over Notre Dame - including 13 in a row when Iowa's offense had gone stagnant - and 19 points and six assists in an 85-82 loss at eighth-ranked Iowa State.

Marble's improved perimeter shooting was on display in a 75-71 loss at Wisconsin. He was 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 27 points on the road against one of the best teams in the country. Marble was at his most efficient against the Buckeyes, with 22 points on just 13 shots as Iowa finally got its signature win of the season.

''I'm just focused, and I'm trying to accomplish a lot just as far as the team. I want to do a lot. I know what kind of intensity and focus it's going to take to get this thing done. I just have this mindset that I won't be denied,'' Marble said.

Marble's improved play dates to the end of 2012. He fell into a massive five-game slump in Big Ten play last year, missing 36 of 44 shots as the Hawkeyes went 1-4 and saw their NCAA tournament hopes irreparably damaged.

Marble has been on a tear since last February, when he helped lead the Hawkeyes on their eventual run to the NIT title game. This season, Marble is averaging 19.8 points on 46.4 percent shooting with 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals in conference play.

''When you have a guy that's playing like he's playing and playing as comfortably as he is, I think the more minutes you give him, the better it is. He's just out there feeling like he can do whatever we need him to do in that particular situation,'' McCaffery said. ''He affects the game.''

The Hawkeyes are hoping to improve their play headed toward the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament. Perhaps the best indicator of Iowa's potential is the continued growth of Marble, who has shown the ability to carry the Hawkeyes against elite competition.

`I feel like I'm one of the best players in this conference - if not the best. So I have to go out there and play like that every game, and when we play against the better teams in the conference we've just got to take it up a notch,'' Marble said. ''I think I've done that as far as, when the competition has stiffened, becoming more aggressive and being even more confident so the guys know that we are a good team and that we can compete and beat any team we want.''

Tagged: Iowa

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