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IOWA CITY, Iowa Mike Gesell signed autographs outside the Iowa locker room late Wednesday night clad in a dark-colored suit and fashioned with a form-fitting boot for his right foot.
Unfortunately for Iowa it wasn't for any heroics by the freshman point guard in the Hawkeyes' 58-48 win against Purdue. Gesell missed his first career game with right foot injury, unrelated to his left ankle tweak on Saturday against Nebraska. It's not stress fracture, and it's an "ongoing" issue, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after the game. As for specifics, McCaffery had no plans to detail Gesell's injury.
"He hurt his foot," said McCaffery, clearly agitated after the fifth question probing into Gesell's injury. "That's all I'm going to say. I don't want to get into all the particulars."
Gesell had started all 27 games at either the point or off-guard. He put up 9.0 points a game and dished 79 assists and grabbed 79 rebounds. McCaffery hopes Gesell can return in time for the Big Ten Tournament.
In the interim, Iowa has three more regular-season games and shuffled its lineup to replace Gesell. Junior Devyn Marble now is back at the point, where he opened 16 games last year. He's now started at three different spots this year but said he has a firm grasp of the offense at any position.
Marble scored 18 points and dished four assists, a number he considers too low. Marble moving to the point means getting everyone involved on offense coupled with better shot selection.
"I've learned how to play the position, and I know how to be aggressive, and I still know how to facilitate at the same time," he said. "It's not like my freshman year where I was still trying to learn on the position on the fly."
McCaffery opted to move Marble at the point and continue to bring freshman Anthony Clemmons off the bench. Clemmons played 15 minutes, spelling Marble at times or playing alongside Marble, who then shifted to his customary off-guard slot. Clemmons immediately had an impact, stealing a pass at mid-court then converting it into a dunk to give Iowa a seven-point lead. He finished with four points, two steals, an assist and two turnovers.
McCaffery was most concerned with how Marble would hold up against a tough, physical Purdue defense.
"We're not just asking him to run the offense, we're asking him to go score for us, too," McCaffery said. "We need him to score for us, too, and that's hard. So we played him, what, 29 minutes? I didn't want to take him out. I took him out for two minutes down the stretch just to make sure he could play those last four."
While McCaffery and Iowa's players say they'll miss Gesell, they also have confidence the team can compete without him.
"Mike does so much offensively and helps our team," said sophomore Josh Oglesby, who replaced Gesell in the starting lineup. "Obviously Dev played point a lot last year. I didn't think that was big difference. (Gesell) scores, he creates for other people. Hopefully he gets back as soon as he can. We're going to need him."
"Dev's very talented," Iowa junior Melsahn Basabe said. "He has great vision, and he's a good passer. So it's nothing that he can't handle. It's not that big of a deal because he's already played point guard. It's just unfortunate that Mike isn't with us right now."
1. Iowa will miss Gesell's scoring but might be better with Marble at the point. It seems all year the Hawkeyes have dealt with an uneasy balance between building the future and competing in the present. Center Adam Woodbury has loads of potential but has struggled through growing pains. Gesell shifted from point guard to 0ff-guard and then back to the point before getting hurt.
Now Iowa's postseason hopes with ride at the point with Marble, who was fifth last year in Big Ten assist-to-turnover ratio. The offense will go through him, and it might run more efficiently in the short term. As long as the team can compensate him on the defensive end, the move could give the Hawkeyes the best chance to compete against Indiana and Illinois. We'll see.
2. Olaseni inconsistent but surging. Olaseni was marginal on offense, taking only one shot and shooting two free throws he did make them all, however but he did grab four rebounds in 19 minutes. He also had a tremendous blocked shot on Purdue's Donnie Hale late in the second half. It wasn't as explosive as his block against South Carolina State in late December, but it energized the crowd.
"I just tried to make a hustle play," Olaseni said. "I put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could. I make those plays in practice, and I made a play on that earlier in the year, so I knew I was capable."
In the post Olaseni outplayed Woodbury, who missed all three shots and all three free-throw attempts while grabbing one rebound in 17 minutes. They'll be both be needed to compete against Indiana's Cody Zeller on Saturday.
3. No desperation. Although it's a long shot for Iowa to reach the NCAA tournament, Basabe said the team doesn't feel a sense of desperation heading into a game at No. 1 Indiana on Saturday.
"We don't feel desperate because when you're desperate that usually means you don't have what it takes, you don't have the answers," Basabe said. "We have the answers; we just have to execute."