Iowa surging ahead of Big Ten tournament
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Iowa can finally forget about last season’s late slide.
The Hawkeyes are too busy surging into the postseason to worry about the past.
Iowa (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten) appears poised to reach the heights it fell short of a year ago when it lost seven of its last eight games. The Hawkeyes head to Chicago for the league tournament with their first six-game Big Ten winning streak in 28 years.
Iowa, the fifth seed, will face either Penn State or Nebraska on Thursday.
”We’re playing our best basketball,” Iowa guard Josh Oglesby. ”I think the biggest thing is defending, and on offense we’re moving the ball, getting out in transition.”
The biggest difference between the Iowa team that split its first 12 conference games and the one that hasn’t lost in three weeks has been senior Aaron White, who is averaging 21.2 points and 9.2 rebounds over his last six games with just one turnover – a stat made all the more remarkable by the fact that putting the ball on the floor and driving to the rim is White’s specialty.
White is also just the second Division I player to score at least 125 points and grab 50 or more rebounds while committing just one turnover in a six-game stretch since 1996-97. White has also put aside his chronic struggles with his jumper, hitting eight of his last 13 from 3-point range.
Iowa is shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 75.7 percent from the line since its last loss – most of which weren’t particularly close either. The Hawkeyes have posted a scoring margin of plus-17.5 during its recent winning streak, during which they’ve allowed more than 60 points just twice.
Those defensive numbers aren’t surprising though. Iowa’s defense is allowing nearly nine points a less per game than it did a year ago.
”We didn’t defend like this team has been defending,” coach Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa’s chances of winning the Big Ten tournament appear to be slim though. The only No. 5 seed to even reach the tournament finals was Ohio State back in 2009, and winning four games in four days is a tough thing to ask out of any team.
But if the Hawkeyes can keep playing well, it could set them up nicely for a potential run in the NCAA Tournament, where Iowa hasn’t won a game since 2001.
”You want to be healthy and fresh. But you want to be together, which we are,” McCaffery said. ”And you’re going to have to have some guys make shots. When it’s all said and done, people have to step up and make shots under pressure.”
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP