Hawkeyes moving up in Big Ten after pounding Maryland

Chad Leistikow

Iowa forward Aaron White reacts after dunking in the first half. The Hawkeyes were up 40-17 on No. 17 Maryland at the break.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – That wide-open race for second place in the Big Ten Conference? Well, here come the Hawkeyes.

Iowa punctuated a sharp-shooting, impressive week by trouncing 17th-ranked Maryland 71-55 Sunday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 15,400 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Aaron White scored 17 points and Adam Woodbury (16) and Peter Jok (15) each tied career scoring highs in the satisfying rout. Mike Gesell added eight points and a career-high nine assists.

After shooting their highest percentage in a Big Ten Conference game in three years Thursday (62.7 in a 72-52 rout at Michigan), the Hawkeyes topped it again — clicking for 64.3 percent against the Terrapins for their fourth win over a ranked team this season.

"We feel like we're one of the best teams in the country," Gesell said. "We have that confidence and that swagger about us."

The popular analysis before the Big Ten season began was that Wisconsin was clearly the league's best team and Any Team Here was the favorite for runner-up.

Iowa is now firmly in the second-place conversation. The Hawkeyes (15-8 overall) are now tied for second in the loss column in the Big Ten and the toughest part of the schedule is in the past.

Maryland, Indiana, Ohio State and Purdue stand 7-4 in the league behind 9-1 and fifth-ranked Wisconsin, with Iowa joining Michigan State at 6-4.

"It's not bad at all," Gesell said of where Iowa sits after the opening 10-game gauntlet that was easily the toughest in the league. "We still have quite a few games left. We can still make some noise in the Big Ten."

Of Iowa's final eight league games, only Illinois (6-5) and Indiana have winning conference records. There are two games against last-place Northwestern (1-9) and one each against Rutgers (2-10), Penn State (3-8), Minnesota (4-7) and Nebraska (5-6).

"I like where we're at," White said. "Eight games left, a couple more home games. Every game on our schedule is winnable. That's our mindset."

The way Iowa played this week, it was easy to forget about White's stinger injury — he played 38 minutes for the second time in three games and secured eight rebounds — and the recent three-game losing streak (two by a combined 43 points to the Badgers).

"Two good wins," White said of the fabulous week that was. "I like the fact that we didn't let ... a couple big games get us down. Who cares? We lost a game. You've just got to get back and get the next one."

Iowa shot 72 percent in the second half in Ann Arbor. For an encore, the Hawkeyes shot 61 percent in the first half Sunday and 64 in the second.

Yet, their defense was even better.

Iowa locked down Maryland, which fell to 19-5, in the first 11½ minutes. Maryland's first 18 possessions resulted in one basket on 10 attempts, eight turnovers and a 22-3 Hawkeye lead.

Iowa's centers — Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni — combined for 9-of-10 shooting and 23 points. The only blemish was 19 turnovers, a season high.

This game was a feel-good rout of a ranked team, much like last year's 85-67 whipping of then-No. 10 Michigan — exactly one year ago Sunday.

Of course, not long after that game, Iowa lost seven of its final eight to end the season.

"I don't think you want to say we're peaking. I don't ever look at peaking," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "I look at, OK, how do we play today, and how can we better tomorrow, and how can we get ready for Thursday (against Minnesota)?"