JASON BRUMMOND,Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Fran McCaffery couldn’t afford to take out Mike Gesell. The Iowa coach didn’t want to put his other freshman point guard on the bench, either.
Gesell scored 15 points and fueled a big second-half run as the Hawkeyes beat Central Michigan 73-61 on Monday night. Gesell played almost the entire second half — much of it alongside his backup, Anthony Clemmons — as Iowa held off the Chippewas’ small but pesky lineup.
“(Gesell) was too good,” McCaffery said. “He was in control. He didn’t look rattled at all.”
Devyn Marble scored 18 points to lead the Hawkeyes, who couldn’t pull away against the inexperienced Chippewas until a 13-2 run midway through the second half.
Kyle Randall scored 17 points for Central Michigan (0-1). The Chippewas cut the lead to seven points with 4 ½ minutes left, but got no closer.
Gesell powered a key second-half stretch for Iowa that pushed a 41-38 lead with 13 minutes left into a comfortable advantage three minutes later.
The 6-foot-1 point guard knocked down a 3-pointer to start the run. Eric May’s steal and layup and Marble’s jumper gave the Hawkeyes a 48-38 lead.
After a Central Michigan basket, Gesell hit another 3-pointer. On Iowa’s next trip, he found Marble, who drained a 3-pointer for a 54-40 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Clemmons, known for his defensive prowess, had a big role in Iowa’s stand. The freshman logged 15 minutes in the second half — more than he played in the entire season opener on Friday — and help eliminate Central Michigan’s penetration and outside shooting.
“They didn’t play like freshmen,” McCaffery said of the guards. “Mike never does.”
Clemmons chipped in nine points, including a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in the first half to give the Hawkeyes a 29-26 lead at intermission.
When Clemmons was recruited, McCaffery told him he’d play with Gesell — it’s not easy for a coach to sign to point guards in the same class. The pitch worked. Clemmons says he’s bonded with Gesell, despite the inherent competition.
“I’m really comfortable,” Clemmons said. “We’re real good friends.”
First-year Central Michigan coach Keno Davis, the son of former Hawkeye coach Tom Davis, began his career as an undergraduate assistant for his father at Iowa from 1991-95.
Later, in 2003, Davis joined his father at Drake and replaced him as head coach in 2007. Keno Davis was named the 2008 AP National Coach of the Year after guiding the Bulldogs to a 28-5 record and the school’s first Missouri Valley Conference title since 1971.
Davis faces a tougher task with the rebuilding Chippewas, who have reached one NCAA tournament the past 25 years.