BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Adam Woodbury received two things upon entering the postgame Iowa locker room Friday: a mob and a game ball.
The embattled senior certainly deserved them both.
In a wild NCAA Tournament opener that was as physical as it was thrilling, Woodbury scored on a putback as overtime expired to send the South Regional's seventh-seeded Hawkeyes past 10th-seeded Temple 72-70 at the Barclays Center.
For Woodbury, that locker-room moment wasn’t about his own glory, though he certainly could have gloated a little bit after an at-times underappreciated Hawkeye career.
“To see the joy on our coaches’ faces, everybody’s face,” Woodbury said, “was just a cool moment.”
As Mike Gesell, his longtime friend and teammate back to AAU days, air-balled a difficult baseline jumper with the score tied, Woodbury rose up, grabbed the ball with two hands and popped it toward the basket. As the buzzer sounded, the ball rattled in for Iowa’s first walk-off winning shot in any game since Cyrus Tate beat Kansas State at the Las Vegas Invitational in November 2008.
“It felt good off my hand, hit back rim,” said Woodbury, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds. “I was just praying that it fell in. Once it was halfway down, I just turned to the bench and I knew we had won the game.”
The Hawkeye center made Friday's game-winning shot.
Sure, maybe he pushed Temple’s Obi Enechionyia before getting his fourth offensive rebound of the game. That’s basketball, the 7-foot-1 senior said.
“That’s just not something a referee does. I got fouled, too,” Woodbury said, showing cuts and red marks along his left arm. “It’s just part of the deal.”
The first person to grab Woodbury in an impromptu celebration in front of the Iowa bench was fellow senior Anthony Clemmons, who felt terribly about fouling Temple’s Quenton DeCosey on a 3-point shot with 2 seconds left in regulation with Iowa ahead 63-60.
Woodbury’s delivery helped soothe Clemmons' gaffe and extended the college careers of Iowa's four senior starters. Those seniors understood what this moment meant for Woodbury, who has been a target of criticism — both from home and opposing fans — throughout his four years.
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“He’s a guy that doesn’t show emotion. But he showed a lot of emotion when he came into this locker room,” Clemmons said. “A lot of guys bash him. But he made a play at the right time.”
This was a physical game, something that Iowa expected of a Temple team that built an NCAA Tournament resume out of winning ugly. It also looked like a game that Iowa would let slip away.
The Hawkeyes failed to make a basket in regulation after taking a 61-53 lead on Clemmons’ driving layup with 5:08 left. Temple inched back as Iowa missed seven straight shots, forcing overtime when Quenton DeCosey (26 points) canned three free throws after Clemmons’ foul.
The Hawkeyes should’ve won in regulation; now, they were in overtime. Uthoff, who finished with a team-high 23 points, acknowledged they were shaken.
“For sure. I think that was running through all our minds. We had it won,” Uthoff said. “Missed a couple free throws, missed a couple shots that were wide open. I, in particular, missed several shots that were wide open.”
Two years ago, Iowa lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Tennessee 78-65 in overtime after similarly leading almost the entire game. Friday against Temple, the ending changed. Iowa came through in the clutch.
Led by its 250-pound pillar of toughness, Iowa (22-10) is moving on to face second-seeded Villanova on Sunday for a shot at the program’s first Sweet 16 since 1999. It was sorely-needed moment for a Hawkeye team that has, for years, struggled to finish close games.
“I think all those struggles built us to who we are now,” Woodbury said. “Every season has peaks and valleys. Hopefully, we’re on the upturn to a peak, and we finish the season on a high note.”
Iowa beat Temple on Adam Woodbury's last-second tip-in. NCAA