Saturday was Senior Day for the Iowa men’s basketball program, but it was a pair of freshmen who made the difference.
Adam Woodbury and Anthony Clemmons both played near-flawless games in the Hawkeyes’ 74-60 win over Nebraska on Saturday afternoon in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
After a bit of streakiness recently from the young duo, Woodbury and Clemmons took charge and stepped up for the Hawkeyes (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten) en route to their first 20-win campaign since the 2005-06 season. Woodbury was 6-for-6 overall from the field while Clemmons was 5-for-7.
“A lot of teams’ goal is to win 20, and not very many teams can do it,” Woodbury said. “To be a part of this, it’s pretty special to me. We’re not done yet. We hope to keep winning.”
Nebraska (14-17, 5-13) decreased the deficit to just one point early on in the second half, helped by solid shooting from Ray Gallegos, who had 22 points.
But then the Hawkeyes pulled away.
Iowa went on a 15-0 run and never looked back. With the victory, the Black and Gold have secured the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament next week.
“In the first few minutes of the second half, we didn’t really have the defensive intensity we needed,” said sophomore Aaron White, who posted 19 points and 6 rebounds. “We knew they weren’t going to go away. We responded well on defense on went on some runs.”
Woodbury and Clemmons aided a lot of those runs.
Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. That was the theme for the Hawkeyes’ freshmen.
“I went through a slump, but now I’m back,” Clemmons said. “If you see an opening, you have to attack the basket. There is nothing better than making a play in transition.”
Saturday’s win propels Iowa’s postseason résumé even further. The NCAA tournament is a possibility, but head coach Fran McCaffery’s squad will have to win at least one game in the conference tourney, probably two-plus.
Heading into the contest with the Huskers, Iowa boasted a No. 31 ranking nationally by Ken Pomeroy and were 76th in RPI.
McCaffery noted Iowa’s .500 conference record, close losses to Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, and a full body of work that has resulted in 20 victories, to vague for the Big Dance.
“I think we deserve tremendous consideration,” he said. “I definitely feel like we’re one of the best 68 teams. To have gone through this league — clearly the best league in the country — and finish 9-9 … we’ve accomplished a great deal.”
Is it enough?