Brown: Unstoppable Aaron White seals homestate sweep
IOWA CITY, Ia. – What's it like to be unstoppable on the basketball court? I asked someone who was Saturday afternoon.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Iowa's Aaron White said after a 76-67 victory over Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "That's why you play. You're just feeling it. Everything's going right, no matter who they put across from you, they can't stop you. And the greatest thing? You're helping your team win."
White, with four points and three fouls to his name, checked back into the game with 16 minutes, 37 seconds remaining. Starting with a steal and dunk at the 13:54 mark, he scored 12 points on the Hawkeyes' next six possessions. He had 18 second-half points in just 14:28.
And the Hawkeyes are 4-1 in the Big Ten and 13-5 overall heading into Tuesday's showdown with No. 7 Wisconsin in Madison.
"Man, it's going to be fun," White said. "That's what coach (Fran McCaffery) said in the locker room. That's what you signed up for."
Saturday was special for White on a personal level. He's from Strongsville, Ohio, so victories in Columbus the last two seasons felt great. But Saturday was the first time he beat Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where the Buckeyes had won five in a row. His first Strongsville Sweep.
"Yes sir, got to love it," White said.
ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, who worked Saturday's game, is a former Indiana guard with a depth of knowledge about the Big Ten. He knew what Saturday's game represented for White and his team.
"He showed me some pride," Dakich said. "You're a senior kid, and you've got to win this game at home if you want to stay in the race. That was part of it."
The other part? Some personal motivation.
"They put freshmen on him," Dakich said. "They put (Jae'Sean) Tate and (D'Angelo) Russell on him. He took it kind of personal, which I think is great. That's what you're supposed to do. I think he dominated."
White said he was motivated.
"I've been guarded by you name it," White said. "Pretty much every different way, every different guy. When you put a freshman on a senior, it's the senior's responsibility to take advantage of that. I'll respect whoever lines up against me. At the same time, I'm a little more experienced. I know what happens in this league, where I can get my spots. That's what I was able to take advantage of."
McCaffery took his forward out when he picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half. From his seat, White saw how Ohio State was pressuring the ball, getting into Iowa players defensively, and he knew the best way to beat that was to attack. When McCaffery sent White back in, he was ready.
"I said, 'Get in there and take over,' " McCaffery said. "Boy, did he take over."
White has heard people question him about his play at crunch time during his career. A career that finds him four rebounds shy of becoming the third player in school history to reside in the career top 10 in scoring and rebounding.
"People have kind of been saying I haven't stepped up in big moments throughout my career," White said. "This was a moment where I wanted to squash that and play well."
Iowa assistant coach Sherm Dillard has a saying that White tries to live by. Play the moment, Dillard tells them. Don't worry about the 40 minutes. Play one possession. White did that. Time and time again.
"I just tried to go in and play the moment," White said.
Boy, did he.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.