DES MOINES, Iowa -- Devyn Marble scored a season-high 30 points as Iowa beat Northern Iowa 80-73 Saturday in the inaugural Big Four Classic.
Freshman Mike Gesell added a career-best 23 points for the Hawkeyes (9-2), who have won four in a row after a brief two-game skid in late November.
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Iowa buried a season-high nine 3-pointers in the first half alone, jumping ahead 40-32. The Panthers stayed within a few possessions for much of the second half but couldn't quite erase Iowa's lead.
Deon Mitchell had 23 points to lead Northern Iowa (6-4), whose losses have come against Louisville, Stanford, Memphis and the Hawkeyes.
The Panthers kept trying to chip away behind bruising forward Seth Tuttle, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half and also had a team-high nine rebounds.
But Northern Iowa's defense simply had no answers for Marble and his teammates.
A jumper from Melsahn Basabe and a 3 from Aaron White -- who struggled through one of his worst offensive games of the year -- helped put Iowa back in front 66-55 with just over four minutes left.
White had just seven points for Iowa. But the Hawkeyes hit 12 free throws in the final 1:52, including 10 from Marble and Gesell.
Iowa entered play shooting a rather pedestrian 44.2 percent from the field -- including just 30 percent from 3-point range.
But the Hawkeyes seemed to hit everything they threw up in the early going.
Iowa hit its first five 3s and 10 of its first 14 shots, a stretch highlighted by a Marble 3 from the elbow that forced Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson to call a timeout in an effort to cool off the Hawkeyes.
It worked to a point, as the Panthers cut a 31-20 deficit down to six. But 3s from Gesell and Josh Oglesby helped the Hawkeyes jump back in front 40-32.
Iowa turned it over 13 times in the first 20 minutes -- but all those 3s covered up all those miscues.
Anthony James had 15 points for the Panthers, who went just 3 of 16 from 3-point range. Iowa finished 12 of 25 on 3s and turned it over just twice in the second half.
This was the last Iowa-Northern Iowa game for two years. The Hawkeyes will face Drake in Des Moines in 2013, while the Panthers get Iowa State.
The Iowa-Northern Iowa rivalry has become more intense in recent years as the Panthers have evened up a series once owned by Iowa. Things got a bit heated at times Saturday, as White and Northern Iowa's Marc Sonnen tussled contentiously for a loose ball that nearly became a mini-scrum.
White and the Hawkeyes got the final say though -- and now the Panthers will have to wait two years instead of one for a shot at payback.