Frank Franklin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — Devyn Marble and Iowa could get used to these fast starts.
Marble had 21 points and nine rebounds to help Iowa, whose slow start to the Big Ten season kept them from the NCAA tournament, reach the National Invitation Tournament championship for the first with a 71-60 win over Maryland on Tuesday night.
"I thought one of the keys to the game was how we came out," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We got into a flow early, and then the same thing late, kept everything going."
The Hawkeyes will play Baylor for the title on Thursday night.
Marble scored 10 points in the game's first 6 minutes, 38 seconds, and Iowa led by 10 before the second TV timeout. The Hawkeyes' biggest lead came with five minutes to play in the first half, when they got up by 14. The Terrapins kept closing the gap, but turnovers and fouls cost them, and Iowa's zone defense — not something they see much of in the ACC — flustered them enough to keep them from getting anything going offensively.
Alex Len had 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots for Maryland (25-13). Nick Faust added 14 points.
"We just didn't play smart enough to win tonight," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "They were ready and we weren't."
Iowa (25-12) won for the 11th time in 14 games. Senior and captain 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, which is set to join the conference starting in 2014.
"I'll tell you what, we have one of the greatest captains around. You don't win 25 games without phenomenal senior leadership," McCaffery said. "We've got a great junior class that we rely on, but there's one captain of the ship."
Marble, one of those juniors, scored six points on a 9-3 run that Iowa used to get away once Maryland closed to within four points with about 12 minutes to play. With six and a half minutes left, Marble's shot made it 58-48. Iowa couldn't build on that lead, but Maryland couldn't get close enough to threaten, either.
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.
"That was the one that put it away," McCaffery said. "I certainly wasn't surprised. ... He's been playing like that all year long."
The Hawkeyes scored 27 points off of 17 Maryland turnovers and made 19 of 24 free throws. Like Iowa, the Terrapins had struggled early before the light went on late in the season. Before their season ended Tuesday night, they had won five of their last six, including a win over hated Duke in the ACC tournament.
Iowa's fast start on Tuesday night helped keep its fast finish going for one more game.
"You've just got to love your time in March," Marble said. "A lot of teams aren't playing right now."
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