Brown: Resilient Gesell always looking ahead

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – It is a moment burned into Mike Gesell's memory bank. No deposit, no return.

"It was a game we wanted," said Gesell, Iowa's junior point guard. "A top-25 team, at their place. Probably one of the loudest games I've played in. It was tough, losing the way we did."

Iowa had taken an 82-77 lead against Iowa State with 1 minute 26 seconds to play on Adam Woodbury's free throw. He missed the second, and things unraveled.

A missed Jarrod Uthoff jumper, Aaron White's turnover after an offensive rebound and Devyn Marble's missed one-and-one later, Gesell was fouled with 12 seconds remaining and Iowa State in front 83-82.

He missed them both. A rock-solid night — 11 points, six assists and no turnovers — was overshadowed by those misses. It was a moment that could have gutted Gesell's confidence and lingered for his career. But Gesell is resilient by nature.

"I used it as a learning experience," said Gesell, who gets another shot at the Cyclones at 7 p.m. Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "And I think I'm a better player because of it."

He certainly was last week in Chapel Hill, when his clutch drive to the basket and three-point play was the definitive play in Iowa's 60-55 upset of No. 12 North Carolina.

"I've always tried to be a very positive person," Gesell said. "I've had coaches, growing up, that always told me that basketball is a game of runs. It's how you respond to those runs."

As a point guard, Gesell realizes it's his ship to steer, whether it's smooth sailing or choppy waters. He has experienced both in his 76-game college career.

"If the guy in the guard position is encouraging everyone and staying positive, whether he's playing well or not, I feel like it flows to the other players," Gesell said.

This has been a season of transition for Gesell. The ball was in Marble's hands most of the time last season. Now it's Gesell's responsibility to get the Hawkeyes' half-court offense in motion. The first few days of practice this season were challenging.

"I was awful," Gesell said. "I wasn't in the flow yet, and I was trying to find my identity. Last year I felt I was more of a facilitator. Coach (Fran McCaffery) just sat me down and told me to play my game. Be aggressive. And do the things I've always done."

Gesell has been up-and-down offensively, averaging 6.0 points and shooting just 35 percent from the field, with 38 assists to 18 turnovers. But he speaks confidently of his offensive ability.

"I know I'm a good shooter," Gesell said. "I'm going to keep shooting."

He'll need to have some shots fall if Iowa is to win Friday. Solid guard play will be crucial in this one.

"Obviously it's a game that both teams have circled on their calendar every year,"Gesell said. "An in-state rivalry. And it's always fun. The crowd is electric. We always match up pretty well. That's why we signed up to play college basketball, to play in games like this."

It's another chance for Iowa to add to its postseason resume. Another chance for Gesell to have the ball in his hands at crunch time.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.