March 7, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Aaron White shined in the Senior Day spotlight, leading the University of Iowa men’s basketball team to its sixth-straight win — a 69-52 victory over Northwestern on Saturday afternoon on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
White led all scorers with 25 points, making 10-of-18 field goals, three 3-pointers and a pair of free throws en route to his fourth-straight 20-point game. The forward also had eight rebounds before leaving to a standing ovation with under a minute to play.
“You always want to leave your building on a high note, and there was no higher note that I could have gone out on,” said White. “The pull-up 3 on my last shot, I got the rebound and coach call timeout, and the place was going crazy. Hugging my coach and teammates, it was special.
“I had a lot of fun and this will be one of the best days I have had in my life, it is very special to me. I’ll let this soak in a little bit because we had a good year, it’s good to end it like we have, but at the same time, we’re going to be ready for postseason.”
Iowa finishes the regular season with a 21-10 overall record and a 12-6 mark in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes won 12 conference games for the 10th time in school history and for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
While White stole the show, he had help. Junior Jarrod Uthoff finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, and three steals, and junior Adam Woodbury scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds after coming off the bench for the first time in his career in place of senior Gabriel Olaseni.
“Gabe deserved the start,” said Woodbury. “I have the utmost respective for what he’s about and the person he is. He has helped me a ton in my career, I can’t even put into words how much he has helped me.”
The Hawkeyes shot 41.7 percent, making 25-of-60 field goals, while limiting the Wildcats to 38.1 percent (16-of-42). Iowa dominated the action on the glass, 39-24, which included 14 offense rebounds, and forced 15 Northwestern turnovers, leading to 19 Iowa points, and Iowa outscored the Wildcats, 32-12, in the paint.
“We shared the ball big-time,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery of Iowa’s 18 assists. “We moved it, got to the baseline, and had success at the rim. Other than a 2-3 minute stretch in the second half when we were trading baskets we were locked in defensively, got a lead, and kept it.”
Carver-Hawkeye Arena was emotionally charged at tipoff following the Senior Day recognition, and McCaffery went away from his norm in inserting Olaseni and senior Josh Oglesby into the starting lineup.
“I don’t usually do that,” said McCaffery. “Senior Days can be tricky, you start guys that haven’t been starting… it can be problematic for you. When I told the guys in practice I was going to do this, the first thing Gabe did was go give Woodbury a hug.
“That’s the relationship they have, and that’s something special about our team.”
Leading up to the game, McCaffery told the team they needed to have laser-like focus from the onset. The Hawkeyes listened.
White started on a vengeance, knocking down consecutive 3-pointers and slamming home an alley oop dunk from junior Mike Gesell in the opening four minutes, helping Iowa open up a 15-4 lead eight minutes into the contest.
The Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 21-9 with 8:26 left in the opening half before the Wildcats came alive, using a 14-4 run courtesy of three 3-pointers — two from Tre Demps and one from Vic Law — to cut the lead to 25-23 with 5:32 remaining.
White answered with a jumper and Woodbury tipped in a Peter Jok miss to push the margin to six, and two minutes later the margin was back to double digits (33-23) following two White free throws.
After seeing its lead cut to six points at the break, Iowa scored six-straight points on an Olaseni layup and back-to-back alley-oop dunks — the first of a Gesell-to-White variety and the second an Oglesby-to-Uthoff hook-up to make the score 39-27.
Northwestern cut the lead to 39-30 at the 16:11 mark and trailed 42-32 with 12:49 remaining, but Iowa had an answer every time the Wildcats tried to make it a game. Whether it was an Anthony Clemmons 3-pointer that answered a triple from Scottie Lindsey with 7:50 left or an Oglesby 3-pointer 17 seconds after a Demps long ball that stretched the lead to 15.
Demps was the only Wildcat player to reach double figures, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Center Alex Olah scored seven points and had 10 rebounds.
Iowa will return to action either Thursday or Friday at the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago depending on its seed, which will be finalized tonight.