Brown: Lost and found: Josh Oglesby's smile

Rick Brown

Iowa's Mike Gesell, left, and Josh Oglesby smile as they walk off the court following the Hawkeyes' 90-56 win over Hampton at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014.  David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Josh Oglesby and Anthony Clemmons were having a good-natured but spirited debate Saturday afternoon.

Who threw the best lob pass to Aaron White? Me, Oglesby said. Me, Clemmons countered. Give-and-take settled nothing. But during Iowa's 81-77 overtime victory against Penn State that night, we had a winner. At least for one game.

Clemmons' first-half lob to White sailed over his hands and out-of-bounds. Oglesby's second-half lob was money, and White dunked the delivery to give Iowa a two-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.

"He threw it over his head," Oglesby said. "I completed it."

Oglesby smiled as he claimed bragging rights, and that's a story in itself. The smile, that is. A smile that has been missing for much of this season.

"I'm just trying to have fun," the Iowa guard said. "The season is coming to an end. My career is coming to an end."

For much of this season, the end looked like it would be a blessing instead of a curse for the senior from Cedar Rapids. Known as a shooter, Oglesby lost confidence. No matter how many times Iowa coach Fran McCaffery gave him the green light and told him to shoot, he'd yield. An exasperated McCaffery all but waved the white flag of surrender a couple of weeks ago.

But Oglesby has become one of the feel-good stories of this Iowa basketball season down the stretch. His shooting touch returned last week, helping the Hawkeyes to victories over Illinois and Penn State by making 6-of-10 3-pointers. He had made just seven in 23 attempts in Big Ten play heading into last week.

His four triples against Penn State were the most he's made in 36 games. It also led to his first double-figure scoring game of the season.

Oglesby's defense, ballhandling and passing — Saturday's not the first time this season he's connected with White on that bread-and-butter lob play — has been good enough to get him playing time even when he refused to pull the trigger from three. He's had just 10 turnovers in 289 minutes of Big Ten competition.

Throw in his stroke — he's shooting 36.3 percent in Big Ten games — and Oglesby has gone from a secondary role player to a valuable piece of Iowa's nine-man playing rotation.

"I realize it's coming to an end," said Oglesby, who is eighth on Iowa's career made 3-pointers list with 145.

"I know I'm a good shooter. I haven't had a great year, the kind of year I wanted to have. But I believe in myself, and I'm going to continue to keep shooting, and taking shots I think are good shots, for me and the team."

Iowa's win Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center was its fourth in a row in Big Ten play. Now 10-6 in the league, the Hawkeyes will try and reach the 20-win mark for the third consecutive season Tuesday at Indiana.

Oglesby's final regular-season Big Ten road game will be played at Assembly Hall, where he scored a career-high 24 points as a freshman while making 6-of-8 3-pointers in a 103-89 loss. It's one of his favorite places to shoot in the Big Ten.

Then comes his final career game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday against Northwestern. Oglesby and fellow seniors Aaron White, Gabe Olaseni and Kyle Denning will be honored before tip-off. And Oglesby will say goodbye with a smile on his face.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.