IOWA CITY, Ia. – Was Aaron White 100 percent? That was a topic up for debate following Iowa's 74-63 home loss Saturday to fifth-ranked Wisconsin.
But the fact that White was on the floor for a season-high 38 minutes — one week after suffering a stinger injury at Purdue — was something to build on for a Hawkeye team now stuck in a three-game losing streak.
"He played hard, and you could tell he was not quite right," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
The Wisconsin coach said he thought White didn't look like himself.
After scoring a team-high 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting, White was asked at least four times if he felt limited in front of the sellout crowd of 15,400 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
No, he said.
"I wasn't going to go out there if I was going to play less than 100 percent," White said.
A reporter echoed Ryan's observation, noting that White didn't look like his usual self — the guy who typically uses his size and length to cut to the basket and draw fouls.
"No, I wouldn't agree with that," White responded. "I must have been doing some good things if I played for 38 minutes."
The 6-9 forward played a season-high 38 minutes a week after suffering a stinger injury.
On the Wednesday before Saturday's rematch of an 82-50 Wisconsin blowout in Madison on Jan. 20, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he didn't think White would be able to go.
White said he woke up Friday morning and felt better. And in that day's practice, two other injured teammates joined him on the court.
Point guard Mike Gesell (hyperextended elbow) and backup center Gabe Olaseni (ankle sprain) played 20-plus minutes each Saturday after getting banged up in Monday's practice while McCaffery was out recruiting.
"Monday wasn't a good day," McCaffery said, jokingly blaming it on assistant coach Kirk Speraw.
Gesell's injury was less publicized. He wore a wrap around his shooting arm Saturday and said he couldn't attempt 3-pointers. Olaseni's injury went viral after a photo of him in a walking boot circulated online.
So, it was an unusual and choppy week for the Hawkeyes. But you wouldn't have known it in Saturday's first half, as Iowa played some of its best basketball of the season.
But even though the Hawkeyes committed just two turnovers in the first half and shot 67 percent (16-of-24), they could not keep up with the prohibitive Big Ten Conference favorite — trailing 42-36 at the break. Wisconsin, which leads the country in points per possession, scored 32 points on its first 16 trips up the court.
Iowa made just seven second-half shots, two of them garbage-time layups in the final 45 seconds.
White got a huge ovation when he made his first basket, a transition layup.
"He might have been a little more physical in another setting, but I thought he stuck his nose in there," McCaffery said of White, who also snagged seven rebounds. "He was trying to mix up his jumpers and his drives and his post-ups. I think he missed a couple shots that he normally would have made."
The Hawkeyes lost to Wisconsin 74-63.
After yet another question about his health Saturday, White responded that he felt fantastic.
"I felt like I was out there fighting and playing as hard as I could," White said. "I thought I did some good things. I didn't use my legs all week, so they were fresh for today."
The physical pain: gone?
"Not completely," White said, "but obviously enough where I could play."
And on this day, even in a loss, that was a silver lining. Iowa (13-8, 4-4 Big Ten) is bound to get healthier leading up to Thursday's 6 p.m. ESPN game at Michigan.
"I'm already looking forward to this week and getting ready for Michigan," White said, "just taking it one game at a time."