Dec. 3, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Junior Mike Gesell scored the final five points to break a 55-all tie and send the University of Iowa men’s basketball team to a 60-55 victory over No. 12 North Carolina on Wednesday night at the Dean E. Smith Center in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Entering Wednesday’s game, North Carolina was 86-3 under head coach Roy Williams at home against nonconference opponents.
“This is why I came to this program, to beat teams like this,” said junior Adam Woodbury. “We beat a good team tonight, not many teams come into this hostile environment and get wins. We were able to make some key plays down the stretch and get some defensive stops and come away with the win.”
With 1:30 remaining, Gesell took advantage of a clear out, drove to the basket and scored high off the glass and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to give Iowa a 58-55 lead with 1:16 to play.
“The shot clock was run down a little bit, so I knew I had to make a play,” said Gesell. “I wanted to take it strong to the basket, and I knew the shot blockers were coming and I had to get it high off the glass. I was able to sneak it in there.”
The Hawkeyes then got the defensive stop they needed.
Preseason All-American and Iowa native Marcus Paige drove to the basket, but was whistled for an offensive fould when junior Anthony Clemmons was positioned to get the call. Iowa whittled away the game clock, but came away empty, giving the Tar Heels one final look with 14 seconds left.
Paige took a long, contested 3-pointer over Iowa’s Aaron White with nine seconds left and the attempt came up short, and Woodbury secured the defensive rebound. Gesell then iced the victory, making two free throws with one second remaining to send Iowa its first signature victory of the season.
Gesell led a group of three Hawkeyes in double figure, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Woodbury made 5-of-7 field goals, finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds, and White scored 10 points — going 10-for-10 from the free throw stripe — to go along with eight boards. Junior Jarrod Uthoff scored eight points and had a team-high 11 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes shot 32.7 percent from the field, but buckled down defensively, holding North Carolina to a 27.9 field goal percentage. Both teams struggled from 3-point range, as Iowa went 3-of-20; UNC was 4-of-23.
Iowa took advantage of its opportunities at the foul stripe, converting 21-of-24 free throws; North Carolina was 13-of-17.
“Free throws can win or lose games,” said Woodbury. “If we didn’t shoot well from the free throw line tonight, we would have lost this game.”
North Carolina won the rebounding battle, 46-42, but Iowa turned the tables in the second half. After being out-rebounded 26-15 over the first 20 minutes, the Hawkeyes had a 27-20 advantage in the second half, which included 16 offensive boards.
“We went after them in the second half,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “It was the only way we were going to survive. We weren’t shooting the ball well, we had to go back and get it, drive, and get in the bonus.”
UNC center Kennedy Meeks posted a double-double to lead the Tar Heels, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Iowa held Paige to 13 points; he went 4-of-16 from the field and 3-of-12 from 3-point range while committing three turnovers to zero assists.
North Carolina’s offensive rebounding kept it in the game in the first half, as the Tar Heels had 10 offensive rebounds in the first 10 minutes and had a 15-1 advantage on the offensive glass. UNC had an 11-0 advantage in second-chance points.
Iowa built a 24-16 lead on a Gesell jumper at the 7:53 mark of the first half and led 27-19 courtesy of a 3-pointer from Uthoff with 6:47 remaining. North Carolina followed with a 6-0 run, forcing an Iowa timeout. Iowa led 31-25 with a minute left in the half, but North Carolina grabbed the momentum when it forced a turnover and J.P. Tokoto converted two free throws with one second remaining to cut the deficit to 31-29 at the break.
Iowa’s defense helped the Hawkeyes weather the storm over the first 13 minutes of the second half when the Hawkeyes couldn’t buy a basket. Iowa went 4-for-24 from the floor and missed all 10 3-point attempts.
“That’s what we have to do when the ball’s not falling,” said junior Anthony Clemmons. “You can’t make one mistake or have a missed shot turn into three mistakes or a bucket for them. If we missed a shot or made a mistake, we got back on defense and got a stop.”
Woodbury got the Iowa offense going, knocking down a short jumper to make the score 47-45 with 7:32 left before tying the game at 47 with a baseline jumper with 6:31 remaining. After Paige drained a 3-pointer to put UNC back on top, Woodbury scored his sixth-straight point, making the score 50-49 with 5:47 to play.
“My teammates found me in my spots,” said Woodbury. “I have to give my teammates a lot of credit for finding me when I was open. I was fortunate to make those shots and help us get this win.”
With the score tied at 51, Woodbury made 1-of-2 free throws to put Iowa up 52-51 before White made a pair to make the score 54-51 with 3:04 left. Tar Heel freshman Justin Jackson cut the lead to one with a driving layup with 2:49 to play before Paige made two free throws to give North Carolina its final lead at 55-54.
On the ensuing Iowa possession, Clemmons short jumper was off the mark, but Uthoff secured the offensive rebound before earning a trip to the line. He made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game at 55 with 1:57 remaining to set up Gesell’s heroics.
Iowa (6-2) returns to action Saturday, hosting UMBC at 12:07 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.