Feb. 28, 2015
- Read the March issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By DARREN MILLER
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Close games are won at the free throw line, but a sly steal by senior Aaron White was crucial as the University of Iowa men’s basketball team snuck past Penn State, 81-77 in overtime, Saturday at Bryce Jordan Center.
The Hawkeyes made 25-of-27 free throws — including their final seven in overtime — to improve to 19-10 overall, 10-6 in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State is 15-14, 3-13.
The play of the game occurred with 30 seconds left in overtime. UI junior guard Mike Gesell made the second of two free throws and players from both teams appeared headed up court. But White lurked near Iowa’s basket and lunged when Penn State’s D.J. Newbill tossed an in-bounds pass toward Geno Thorpe. White grabbed the ball and was fouled. He made both free throws to give the Hawkeyes a 77-74 lead.
“I kind of baited him into it,” White said. “Mike made the free throw and I was acting like I was running back and didn’t have any idea what was going on; I turned around and stole it. It was a savvy basketball play, something I pride myself on, thinking ahead, being smart.”
White finished with game-highs of 21 points and 14 rebounds — his 15th career double-double and third this season. He made 11-of-12 free throws.
“When you win a game like that it’s a great feeling because we can look to a lot of things,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We never seemed to panic. When you play a team on the road that was shooting it like (Penn State) did to start both halves, it is all about composure and not panicking and trying to get it back all at once and we never did. That’s what makes me most proud of this team.”
Penn State went on a 23-11 run to open the game and a 6-0 run to open the second half.
While nearly every basketball team loves when the calendar turns to the month of March, the Hawkeyes enjoyed a prosperous February. Iowa went 6-2 over the last 24 days, including four wins in a row. It is the first time the Hawkeyes have won four consecutive league games since 2006. That was also the last time they had double digit Big Ten victories.
“We want to keep getting better,” McCaffery said. “You don’t want to stop at this time and evaluate anything like (winning 10 Big Ten games). You can do that when the season’s over and you can look back and say, `Boy, we did something special.’ But not now.”
Aside from White’s big steal, Iowa had 10 others and scored 20 points off turnovers. Gesell had five steals.
“(Gesell) played 40 minutes and I thought he was absolutely spectacular,” McCaffery said.
Gesell added 14 points and seven assists.
Iowa opened the extra period with back-to-back 3-point field goals by Jarrod Uthoff and Gesell. In an act of symmetry, Gesell assisted Uthoff’s 3 and Uthoff had the assist on Gesell’s.
The Hawkeyes battled back from a 12-point deficit with 11:54 left in the first half and gained a 31-29 advantage at halftime, thanks to a 9-0 run before the break. Iowa made four 3-point field goals — two each by Uthoff (eight points at halftime) and Oglesby (six points at the break). White pulled down seven rebounds.
Iowa shot 35.8 percent from the field (24-of-67) and 38.1 from distance (8-of-21). Although Penn State had a better overall shooting percentage (39.1), they were held to 3-of-10 in overtime.
“This was a hard-fought game,” McCaffery said. “Both teams competed and put themselves in a position to win. A lot of players in this game had to make big plays. There were so many good performances.”
Five Iowa players scored in double figures: White (21), Gesell (14), Josh Oglesby (12), Gabriel Olaseni (12), and Uthoff (11). Olaseni made 8-of-8 free throws with seven rebounds. It added up to a second straight road win for the Hawkeyes.
“When it’s all said and done, if you want to be a good team in this league you have to be able to maintain your composure on the road and win a game like this,” McCaffery said.
Newbill paced Penn State with 19 points and five assists.
Iowa remains on the road March 3 to play Indiana in the only regular-season meeting of the season between the teams. The Hoosiers (19-10, 9-7) have not played since a 72-65 loss at Northwestern on Feb. 25.
“We’re going to go onto the next,” McCaffery said. “We have an unbelievable team Tuesday night on the road again.”
The Hawkeyes are 6-3 on the road this season with five Big Ten wins coming away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.