It [whistle] wasn't pr[whistle]etty and Iow[whistle]a didn't p[whistle]lay its best game[whistle] by any stretch of the imagination, but one clutch play by Aaron White in overtime helped Iowa seal a tough victory at Penn State, 81-77.
The second half (and especially the first 10 minutes therein) was dominated by whistles, adding an unwatchability to the proceedings that really didn't subside until overtime, when things were called a little more evenly. Officials blew 18 fouls in the first 10:08 of the half and 25 in total—none of the "foul because we have to" variety, either—and while Iowa was a larger beneficiary due to a superlative 25-for-27 effort at the stripe, it was claw-your-eyes-out bad basketball. Worse, they weren't all good calls, so you can't just lay this one at the feet of overly physical players.
Iowa was down 12 early in the game, but the deficit was a non-issue by halftime as Iowa led by two at the break. Iowa pushed its lead to seven points late in the game, but promptly gave it up with a 7-0 PSU run that finished with six minutes remaining. The two teams traded blows until OT, where Iowa took a six-point lead early then struggled to hold it as PSU roared back. With under a minute left, Gabe Olaseni got free on the baseline and was in position to convert a dunk and give Iowa a four-point lead, but he lost the ball on the way up and PSU took the ball down the other way and tied the game up.
After Mike Gesell converted one of two free throws, Penn State looked to inbound for one last shot down one, but Aaron White pulled a "Larry Bird in the '87 EC Finals" by peeling off his man and stealing the inbounds pass. He converted both free throws to push Iowa to a much more comfortable 77-74 lead with under thirty seconds left, and Penn State was never able to recover—especially with White converting four more free throws in the closing seconds, keeping the game out of reach.
White's line was typically superb: 21 points (including 11-for-12 at the line), 14 rebounds, an assist, a steal and no turnovers. If he's not a first-team all-B1G player by the end of the season, well, ancient tyrants threw people into volcanoes for lesser slights.
Iowa's now 19-10 (10-6) on the year, and while the Hawkeyes are still not a lock for the tourney, just one more win should do it—and the odds of the Hawkeyes losing at Indiana, at home to Northwestern then to whoever their first-round BTT foe would be are low to the point of implausibility.
We must hail Josh Oglesby, who hit his first three three-pointers of the game and finished 4-for-8 behind the arc; he was instrumental in Iowa's push back to the lead, especially on a night where the Hawkeyes didn't get much from several of their more regular scorers, and his defense on the perimeter was typically strong. It's safe to say Oglesby's green light is back in full measure.
Mike Gesell continues to impress. His stat line sparkles—14 points, seven assists, five steals—and he was about as smart with the basketball as we've seen from him all year. He hit a huge three in overtime (his first in over a month, since his hyperextended elbow against Wisconsin) and was able to get the ball inside with relative ease. That's what Iowa desperately needs from its PG position and now Gesell is delivering fairly regularly. If this Mike Gesell had shown up in December, there's no telling how much better Iowa's tourney resume would be at this point; suffice it to say there'd be zero talk of bubbles.
Speaking of clutch threes, Jarrod Uthoff was off for most of the game, going 4-14 from the field (including a dismal 1-7 for two, mostly on the quick turnaround jumpers that almost nobody in America can hit), and he had two open looks at three-pointers in the last minute of regulation that would have effectively won the game for Iowa without any of this overtime nonsense. And yet, even with a shot that had no interest in falling all night, Uthoff found himself open behind the arc on the first possession of overtime and promptly drilled it, giving Iowa a quick lead that Penn State never took back. The man's a cold-blooded shooter, god bless him.
A trip to Indiana now looms, and while it's now no longer a must-win situation for the Hawkeyes, it seems to be the last sure opportunity for them to work their way out of the dreaded 8-9 first round matchup that usually ends in Death By One Seed later that weekend.
What did you people think?