Feb. 25, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
The University of Iowa men’s basketball team won for an 18th time this season and third in a row behind a career-high 29 points from White. And while his 8-of-13 shooting from the field was tops of anyone else on the floor, it was a driving slam dunk by Gesell that ignited 14,831 fans inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena during Iowa’s 68-60 victory over Illinois on Wednesday.
Iowa improved to 18-10 overall, 9-6 in the Big Ten Conference; Illinois is 17-11, 7-8. It is the first three-game Big Ten win streak for the Hawkeyes since Jan. 9-19, 2014 with wins against Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota.
“We’ve had tremendous focus and concentration on the game plan because each game was dramatically different,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “As a coach you can’t ask for anything more than how they have responded. We have really competed in these three games. We’ve got three more and the plan is for that to continue.”
White scored 14 consecutive points for the Hawkeyes in the second half and over the final 20 minutes he was 5-of-6 from the field (2-of-2 from 3-point range) and 8-of-9 from the line.
“I had a feeling before the game that something special was going to happen for myself and our team,” White said. “Sure enough it did. I was in a zone there. I can’t hold anything back. I had a lot of fun and you can’t take it for granted.”
His performance didn’t go unnoticed by Illinois head coach John Groce.
“Aaron White was spectacular,” Groce said. “He played like a senior is supposed to play this time of year. He was terrific when they needed him. He came up with big buckets, big rebounds and he played with inspiring effort. He was hands down the best player in the game; it wasn’t even close.”
The slam with 4:39 remaining was the only field goal by Gesell and gave the Hawkeyes their largest lead at 62-50.
“We had a set play called,” Gesell said. “I was able to beat (Ahmad) Starks off the dribble and I knew I had to get to the rim quick because the shot blockers were coming. As a guard, you don’t get many chances like that, so it was fun.”
Josh Oglesby — another guard and another Hawkeye senior — was 2-of-2 from 3-point range with three assists and two rebounds in 17 minutes.
“He was fabulous,” McCaffery said. “His defense was spectacular. He shoots 2-for-2 with three assists and he doesn’t make mistakes.”
Iowa limited Illinois to 25-percent shooting from the field in the second half (7-of-28) and 33.3 percent for the game. The Hawkeyes made 43.8 percent from the field, including 6-of-14 from 3-point range. White was 3-of-4 from distance.
Iowa opened eight-point leads twice in the first half and was ahead 33-32 at the break. White scored nine points with five rebounds during the first 20 minutes; Olaseni made 4-of-5 field goals for eight points.
Illinois was led in scoring by Rayvonte Rice with 20 and Starks with 19.
The current winning streak includes decisions against Rutgers (81-47), Nebraska on the road (74-46), and now Illinois.
The Hawkeyes take their three-game run of success on the road Saturday to play Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions (15-13, 3-12) have lost four in a row.
“You don’t want to get too excited about this game in and of itself because we have to go on the road and play a really good team Saturday,” McCaffery said.