PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas The joy was palpable, from Adam Woodbury's chest bumps to Aaron White's high-five to Devyn Marble.
No. 23 Iowa (6-0) never led in regulation against Xavier, yet when the final buzzer sounded, the Hawkeyes soaked up the joy of victory. Iowa rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to win 77-74 in overtime at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Thursday. The spontaneous outburst before final handshakes showed both the elation and the difficulty of victory.
"We were definitely very excited," said Marble, who scored a game-high 30 points. "That was a very good team. A lot of people didn't think we were ready for this with the first five minutes."
It was a win that seemed so improbable, yet turned so possible with Marble and a dogged offensive effort in the final 10 minutes. Iowa trailed 11-2 less than four minutes into the game and 55-42 with 10:06 left when Marble took over.
Marble drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 10. On Xavier's next possession, Marble stole a pass at mid-court and tossed ahead to a streaking Aaron White for a breakaway dunk. Marble then followed with another 3-pointer and then a free throw. He had a hand in 10 straight points and cut Iowa's deficit from 13 points to three.
"We needed to start a run and that was about the time we needed to," Marble said. "We just needed something to get us in a rhythm. We were down 15 or something like that. We needed a run soon. Ten minutes (left), I think that's about the time you need to have one or it will be too late. So I was trying to pick it up defensively, get a steal, I was trying to cause havoc. I got the steal, I got it to Whitey, I got to the free-throw line. I was trying to find any way to get us going as a team."
"The thing I really liked about him (Marble) tonight was how aggressive he was, right from the start," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "We were clearly sideways offensively. We were fumbling the ball. It didn't seemed like it was going to be our night offensively. (Marble) triggered our fast break and really got it back to even."
Iowa fought throughout the second half but didn't knot up the score until Mike Gesell drilled a jumper with 1:37 left. Xavier went back ahead with a pair of free throws, but Iowa rallied on its next trip up the court with an inside pass from Gesell to center Gabe Olaseni.
Iowa played the overtime session with Marble, who struggled with cramps in his right calf all night. He left the game for good with 2:06 left in regulation. But his teammates stepped up without him. The Hawkeyes scored on their first three overtime possessions, hitting four free throws. The Hawkeyes led by as many as four after Aaron White's basket. Iowa held off three last-second 3-point attempts to secure the win.
"I give full credit to Iowa," Xavier Coach Chris Mack said. "I thought in the second half, they became a lot more aggressive. Their zone, their full-court press; they turned us over too many times. We had to be a team that didn't turn the ball over."
Marble praised his teammates' resiliency for finishing the game with him sitting on the bench.
"I'm so proud of them," Marble said. "I knew they were going to get it done. I just told them keep being aggressive, don't worry about it and shots will start to fall."
Iowa will play the Tennessee-UTEP winner at 6 tonight in a Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal. Kansas plays Villanova in the other game.
"We believe in ourselves," Marble said. "We're confident in ourselves and I think tonight was a good stepping stone. We're not there yet, but we still can't be down 15. Some other teams might have been able to close it out on us."