IOWA CITY — On paper, Maryland-Eastern Shore looked like it should have been a cakewalk for the 2-0 Iowa men’s basketball team on Thursday night.
It can be hard to find the proper motivation sometimes, in that circumstance, to get the superior team to be properly motivated.
Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery didn’t have to look too far past the name on the jersey of the Hawks on Thursday to find such motivation. It was Maryland, the soon-to-be Big Ten rival Terripans, that also found themselves on Wednesday in a game that appeared to be a cakewalk against Abilene Christian.
“What did they do? They made 10 threes in the first half,” McCaffery said. “A makes 10 threes in the first half, you’re going to have trouble beating them. I don’t care if you’re the Lakers. You’re going to have a hard time beating a team that makes 10 threes in the first half.”
“I’ve always said it’s hard to beat a team when the make 10 threes in a game. But in the first half? No wonder Maryland was down by six with 14 minutes to go.”
Motivation enough Hawkeyes? Apparently so.
Iowa never let themselves be put anywhere close to the precarious position their soon-to-be conference rival was in the previous night. The Hawkeyes jumped on Maryland-Eastern Shore with a 27-4 run that helped open a 32-9 lead in the opening half.
The visiting Hawks never got closer. Iowa rolled past the century mark for the first time this season with a convincing 109-63 win.
For McCaffery, it was easy to motivate his team by simply reminding them that, especially in college basketball, anyone is vulnerable on any given night. The Hawkeyes themselves were certainly reminded of that Sunday in an 83-75 win on Sunday over Nebraska-Omaha that saw Iowa behind on the scoreboard for most of the game.
“I would hope that our kids would come to practice to play hard and get better every day, no because a team that everyone thought we were going to beat worse than we actually beat them,” McCaffery said. “That game Sunday took everything we had to get (Nebraska-Omaha) and that’s just the way the game is.”
“I continue to be amazed at how somebody is getting beat. Somebody is getting beat. ‘Oh, I didn’t think that would happen.’ Three, four, five times a night it happens.”
Aaron White paced the Hawkeyes in a much easier effort on Thursday, scoring a season-high 22 points as Iowa opened up a 40-point working margin midway through the second half.
“Every day right now is a chance to get better,” White said. “That’s what we’re trying to do right now. Play hard and get better with each game. It was nice to see those outside shots finally start to fall for me as well.”
“Aaron’s been working on his game and you can tell,” McCaffery added. “His jumper looks really good. He’s moving without (the ball), he’s driving it. He’s getting to the free throw line and playing with great confidence. I think that’s what you want to see.”
Senior Deyvn Marble had 10 points, five assists and four steals in 18 minutes at shooting guard, and Mike Gesell broke out of a mini-slump with eight points and seven assists.
"It was just a change of pace, with me being able to go out there and be more aggressive, looking to score and at the same time finding my teammates," Marble said. Gesell "is still comfortable playing (point guard) even though we just threw him back out there."
“I expect Mike to shoot. He’s a really good shooter,” said McCaffery. “Devyn is a good shooter. Peter Jok. (Okey) Ukah. We’ve got guys that can shoot, but it’s like anything else. Sometimes you have those games where maybe your shot doesn’t fall.”
Melsahn Basabe scored 12 points and Jarrod Uthoff had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the 3-0 Hawkeyes. Iowa scored 56 points in the first half — a team record under McCaffery.
Zach McCabe also had 11 points for the Hawkeyes, who had 14 players score while cracking 100 points for just the third time under McCaffery.
Isaac Smith scored 19 points on 24 shots for Maryland-Eastern Shore (1-2). The Hawks won just two games a year ago.
Iowa forced 11 turnovers and had eight players score during the first half alone. The most spectacular of the 20 shots Iowa made in the first 20 minutes came when Marble tossed the ball off the backboard to a trailing White, who threw it down to give Iowa a 35-point lead.
The Hawkeyes return home to host the same Abilene Christian team that put a scare into Maryland on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.
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