Iowa senior point guard Mike Gesell used the word fun to describe the upcoming challenge of facing Marquette on its home floor.
He wasn’t kidding.
Gesell and his cohorts had lots of fun at Marquette’s expense on Thursday as the Iowa men’s basketball team rolled to an 89-61 victory at the Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee, Wis.
Junior guard Peter Jok led six Iowa players in double figures with 20 points. All five of Iowa’s starters scored at least 10 points.
It was Iowa’s largest road win against a non-conference opponent since a 103-68 victory over Drake on Nov. 29, 1994.
“It’s our first road game of the season, so as upperclassmen, us starting five knew that we had to set the tone, especially for the young guys and show them what it’s like to play on the road,” Gesell said on the Learfield post-game radio show. “Marquette is a very good basketball team. I think they’re going to have a great season. They’ve got some tremendous players on that team.
“I think we just did a tremendous job defensively of playing team defense. It wasn’t just one guy.”
Iowa improved to 3-0 with the victory and now has a week to prepare for its next game against Dayton on Nov. 26 in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Fla.
“I love playing games like this, this early in the season.,” Gesell said. “I love playing against thje best teams in the country. And I know my teammates feel the same. Every night we want to step out and play the best. You might fall sometimes, but as long as we’re getting better and it’s building our resume for the end of the season.”
Thursday’s game, which was part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, matched Iowa’s veteran lineup, which includes four returning starters, against a youthful Marquette squad led by star freshman forward Henry Ellenson
Iowa’s experience prevailed in a game that never was competitive. The 6-foot-10 Ellenson was held to just three points, which was far below his 19.5 per-game average.
Iowa dominated the game pretty much from start to finish. Senior guard Anthony Clemmons made a reverse layup to give Iowa a 31-10 lead with 7 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half. He also assisted on a basket by senior center Adam Woodbury that expanded Iowa’s lead to 33-13.
The lead continued to swell when junior-college transfer Dale Jones drained a 3-pointer late in the first half, giving Iowa a comfortable 48-21 lead at halftime.
Marquette only made 2-of-19 3-point attempts in the first half and also committed 12 turnovers before halftime.
The Golden Eagles scored the first eight points in the second half, trimming the lead to 48-29.
Iowa responded with an 8-0 scoring run and took a 57-30 lead on a 3-point basket by senior forward Jarrod Uthoff with 14:40 left to play.
The Golden Eagles never rallied after that while falling to 1-2 on the season.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery praised his team’s approach to Thursday’s matchup and its execution throughout the game.
“It was our execution of the game plan,” McCaffery said. “We can lay it out. I don’t remember in all my career a team really locking in, all five guys together on their key personnel and what they like do. And at the same time going down to the other end and executing our offensive game plan.
“Just the professionalism with which they showed to go on the road and beat a real good team in a hostile environment. And I think more importantly, set the example for the young guys on how to prepare and how to execute on the road.”
McCaffery, who has led Iowa to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons, is trying to mix a veteran roster with a six first-year players. Judging from Thursday’s performance, it seems to be working.
“If you’re going to be a good team you’ve got to be able to win on the road, you’ve got to be able to beat good teams and you’ve got to be able to maintain your composure,” McCaffery said. “And that’s what we did.”