Iowa hit its free throws down the stretch and fended off a furious second half from Notre Dame to win, 98-93. Yeah! Take that, ACC! Take that, Catholicism! Take that, Pope! Got a new pope in town. Pope Aaron White. The Pick-'n-Pope!
White paced the Hawkeyes with 20 hard-fought points and added seven boards and seven assists on the night (his previous high on assists was four, which he only accomplished twice). That included the pair of highlight-reel dunks that lead off ESPN's reel:
Also shining for Iowa was Roy Devyn Marble, who finished with 17 points—including a spree of 13 straight for the Hawkeyes as Iowa battled back from a deficit early in the second half. Indeed, when the smoke cleared from Marble's fireworks show, Iowa had turned a two-point deficit into a six-point lead, and Notre Dame would get no closer than three points the rest of the way.
In fact, after Marble's spree, White took over. Iowa scored eight baskets after Marble went nuclear; White either scored or assisted on seven of them. Marble and White both played 36 minutes in this one. The message from Fran McCaffery is clear: Iowa has a deep, deep bench, but when things get tough it's up to Marble and White to get the job done. And they did.
Jarrod Uthoff (still not starting, but third on the team with 24 minutes played) also poured in 17, doing a great deal of damage at the free throw line (8-10, including 4-of-6 in the last 1:11) and also showing off that smooth outside shot. Uthoff still has improvement to make, especially when he gets tentative after getting the ball on the perimeter, but he might have the most NBA-friendly skill set on the entire team.
All in all, Iowa's percentages were ludicrous. It's hard to lose a game when you go .569/.538/.862, to say nothing of rebounding 12 of your 27 missed shots on offense, after all. Hell, it's hard to even keep the game close like that, which is why it was a bit of a stunner to see Notre Dame within 3 with 40 seconds left. But make no mistake: Iowa closed this one out beautifully. The last time the Fighting Irish had a chance to take the lead (i.e. had the ball and were within two points) was with eight minutes left in the game.
Notre Dame was led by Garrick Sherman, whom we'll just call the Amish Hammer for the rest of the season (it was either that or Brother Hezekiah and I have no desire to keep looking up how to spell that). Sherman poured in 29 points from the center spot, routinely abusing Adam Woodbury with a set of post moves that frankly weren't all that impressive. That's not a diss on him—dude torched Iowa—but he wasn't exactly busting out the Dream Shake in the process. But hey, at the very least Woodbury only committed one foul in the process, so it's not as if the Amish Hammer was getting cheapies from the stripe. He had to make shots over the 7'1" Woodbury and he did it.
We have to say something about Zach McCabe. At the beginning of the year it was hard to see where he'd get minutes late, what with Uthoff, White and Basabe all occupying the combo forward slot. Nobody thought McCabe would be catching DNP-CDs or anything, but that is a crowded-ass forward position, especially for someone with comparatively limited athleticism.
But yet there's McCabe, game after damn game, forcing his way onto the floor with solid interior defense and (more importantly) the best 3-point shooting on the team. McCabe is 14-26 from behind the arc on the year, which is crucial with Josh Oglesby sidelined and without many other reliable options from deep.
Peter Jok has solidified his reputation as the Dylan of the Big Ten (because I shoot hot fire), chucking left and right when he gets the chance... and summarily sitting for most of the second half (I'm shutting the shoot-io down). God love him though, because someone's going to have to be the conscienceless shooter for the Hawkeyes when Roy Devyn Marble graduates or if an errant plank flies up from the Ryan Fieldhouse floor or whatever. It could happen.
Anyway, this was a fine win for Iowa, one that will probably hold up just nicely on into March as tourney resumes get evaluated. Notre Dame's a pretty middle-of-the-road ACC team, but hey—it looks a lot better than another blowout win over Never Heard Of Here State, no?