Shooting free throws has either been feast or famine for the Iowa men’s basketball team this season.
The Hawkeyes gorged themselves Thursday at the expense of Big Ten bottom feeder Penn State.
Iowa made 31-of-39 free throws, including 21-of-26 in the second half, and held on to defeat the Nittany Lions 76-67 before an announced crowd of 13,369 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We’re all pretty good free-throw shooters as a team,” said sophomore Aaron White, who made all but one of his 11 free-throw attempts Thursday and finished with a career-high 27 points. “You’ve got to make them on the road in key situations and that’s my next step as a free-throw shooter.
“And I’ve got to make them when they count.”
White missed two free throws late in Iowa’s 72-63 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 22 in Columbus, Ohio. His teammates also struggled from the free-throw line against the Buckeyes, with Iowa making only 13-of-26 free throws overall.
Penn State shot well from the free-throw line Thursday, making 14-of-16 attempts. However, the Nittany Lions trailed for most of the game and were forced to foul, especially late in the second half.
“They made their free throws, and that is what stops runs,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
The 6-foot-8 White also made 8-of-15 field-goal attempts, grabbed five rebounds, blocked two shots and had one steal while playing 34 minutes.
“They have big-time players,” Chambers said. “Aaron White is a great player. He can cover anybody on the floor. When they need a big shot, he hits a big shot. When they need a rebound, he gets a big rebound and he gets an extra possession for them.
“He is relentless. He is a big-time player.”
Iowa also received a boost from junior forward Melsahn Basabe, who started for the first time this season and for the 53rd time in his Hawkeye career. Basabe recorded his first double-double this season, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I had been considering it for a while,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of making Basabe a starter. “I thought he was tremendous at Purdue (last Sunday). He really was. And then he comes back with a double-double. So I’m proud of him.”
Iowa improved to 14-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten with the victory and now heads back on the road with games at Minnesota on Sunday and at Wisconsin on Wednesday.
Iowa hasn’t played Minnesota this season but will look to sweep Wisconsin for the second consecutive season after defeating the Badgers 70-66 on Jan. 6 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Penn State fell to 8-13 overall and 0-9 in the Big Ten.
Basabe started in place of freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons, who had started the previous 13 games. Clemmons said he was informed about the lineup change Tuesday.
Fellow freshman Mike Gesell shifted back to point guard, where he started the first seven games this season.
“It was best for the team,” said Clemmons, who scored eight points while playing 14 minutes off the bench. “They wanted me to bring energy coming off the bench. And they wanted to give Mike a shot at the point.”
Iowa fell behind 10-3, but then White scored seven consecutive points. That proved to be the start of a 14-0 scoring run for the Hawkeyes.
Sophomore guard Josh Oglesby capped the scoring run by making a 3-point basket to expand Iowa’s lead to 17-10 with 10:48 left in the first half.
Thursday marked the second time this season that Iowa has made 31-of-39 free throws in a game. The first time came during a 75-63 loss to Wichita State on Nov. 21 in the Cancun Challenge.
Iowa led by 15 points in the second half, but struggled to execute down the stretch. McCaffery became so upset at one point that he got in the face of junior guard Devyn Marble during a timeout to voice his displeasure.
“We didn’t execute,” McCaffery said when asked what made him so upset. “It’s not easy. You’re trying to protect the lead. You don’t want to quick shoot the ball.”
The Hawkeyes did execute at the free-throw line, though. The next challenge is to do it on the road, beginning with the Gophers on Sunday.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball