By Rick Freeman
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK – Devyn Marble had 21 points and nine rebounds to help Iowa reach the NIT championship for the first time with a 71-60 win over Maryland on Tuesday night.
Iowa (25-12), which recovered from a rocky start to its Big Ten season, won for the 11th time in 14 games. Eric May finished with 12 points, his last on a big 3-pointer with 1:01 to play that iced it for the Hawkeyes, who laid the foundation for a future Big Ten rivalry with Maryland. The Terrapins will join the conference in 2014.
Alex Len had 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots for Maryland (25-13). Nick Faust added 14 points.
Iowa took an early 14-point lead in the first half, but couldn’t put Maryland away until just a few minutes remained, despite 17 turnovers by the Terrapins.
The Terrapins cut Iowa’s lead to 49-45 with about 11 minutes to play, but the Hawkeyes responded with a 7-0 run before Maryland converted a three-point play to make it 56-48 with under 7 minutes left.
The Terrapins remained within a couple of baskets for the rest of the game. They failed to convert a three-point play on Len’s dunk with about two minutes left, and May knocked down a 3-pointer with a minute left that put Iowa up nine.
The Hawkeyes scored 27 points off of Maryland turnovers, 18 in the first half, and made 19 of 24 free-throw attempts.
The Terrapins had won five of their last six, including a win over hated Duke in the ACC tournament.
Iowa had never reached the NIT semifinals before this season, in which the Hawkeyes caught fire in the Big Ten too late to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
The trip extended the homecoming for Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe, who is from Glen Cove on Long Island. When asked how many tickets he had arranged for friends and family coming to see him play at Madison Square Garden he said, “Enough.”
Star of the game: Devyn Marble, Iowa, 21 points, 9 rebounds
Up next: Championship, Baylor vs. Iowa, 8 p.m. Thursday (ESPN)