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Hawks White-out Illinois

BY DANNY PAYNE | FEBRUARY 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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With roughly 16:30 left in Iowa’s Wednesday night contest with Illinois, Gabe Olaseni cupped one hand near his mouth and made a shoveling motion with the other. He was looking at his teammate, Aaron White, who had 5 points — a triple and a transition lay-up — before Illinois head coach John Groce called a time-out.

Olaseni’s motion was a message to White — keep eating. And he did.

White rattled off the next 9 points and finished Iowa’s 68-60 win over the Fighting Illini with 29 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Normally, midway through the second half, I’m trying to figure out how to get him out and rest him,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, whose team moved to 18-10, 9-6 in the Big Ten. “It was huge. It gave us a little bit of separation.”

There were a few reasons White had the most productive offensive night of his career. First, his 3-point shots were falling, which has become a trend over the course of the past two Iowa wins. Including Sunday’s win at Nebraska, White is now 5-of-6 from beyond the arc this week.

Although he’ll knock down his fair share of deep balls on occasion, White isn’t known as too dangerous of a 3-point threat. In fact, after he made his first two triples, he said the Illinois coaching staff was still telling its players White couldn’t shoot. So naturally, White knocked down a third for good measure.

Outside of that, the 3s open up the floor for White, which is a huge advantage in his play. He’s right; White took 12 shots from the free-throw line Wednesday, knocking down 10 of those attempts. He had more space to get to the rim, where he makes his living.

“It’s a good feeling to have; it’s way easier to play when my shot is falling,” White said. “Opens up my drive, I can make plays for others. It’s not easy to drive when they know I’m driving. So making a couple shots helps — I love making 3s.”

The second reason, White said, was just something special about the game. He said he had a feeling he’d have a game like he did while warming up for Wednesday’s contest.

Although that may sound cliché, there may be a valid reason for that feeling. White doesn’t have much time left in an Iowa uniform. He’s been a huge part of Iowa’s roster for four years, and he had what he called a “senior moment” against Illinois.

“[White] came up with big buckets, rebounds, and played with inspiring effort,” Illinois head coach John Groce said. “I thought he was hands-down the best player in the game, and it wasn’t even close.

“I talked to our team after the game about seniors dying hard, and White was that way tonight. He was absolutely terrific.”

Facing one of its best two remaining opponents, White did everything he could Wednesday to propel his team to victory. He stepped up as a senior leader and was not going to let Iowa lose this game, one crucial to its NCAA Tournament hopes.

Whether someone believes in the type of things Groce described is personal preference. But Wednesday night, White made it hard for those watching the game not to see what Groce described.

“I can’t hold anything back; I kind of see where this is going,” White said. “Couple more games left, second-to-last game in the building. You just have to leave it all out there.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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