Iowa wrap-up: Woodbury rebounds and surges

Hawkeyes center scores four points, grabs six rebounds and blocks three shots in team's win

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March 28, 2014 | 10:50 am

IOWA CITY — Adam Woodbury produced his most diverse statistical effort Thursday against Penn State, and the Iowa freshman believes he’s regaining confidence after a personal slump.

Woodbury, a 7-foot-1 center, had scored two points in each of Iowa’s previous five games. His minutes fluctuated along with his productivity. It was frustrating, and his confidence took a toll.

“I obviously put a lot of pressure on myself, and I think any player does that to a certain degree,” Woodbury said after Iowa’s 76-67 win. “These last few nights I’ve been having a lot of fun, even practicing and (Thursday) playing.

“It’s been a different atmosphere for myself, and I think I’ve finally turned the corner on that little struggle I had. Hopefully we’ll continue to build on this.”

Against the Nittany Lions, Woodbury played a Big Ten-high 20 minutes and scored four points. Woodbury was effective both in the high and low posts, grabbing six total rebounds. He also blocked three shots, dished two assists and had just one turnover.

“What you’re seeing Woodbury do, he affected the game in a lot of different ways,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Defensively, a couple buckets. He was passing the ball really well. When they were in the zone, he was really effective as a feeder. He was moving the ball.

“In ball screens, not many 7-1 guys are out there showing them ball screens, hustling back to the front. His post defense was phenomenal. He was outstanding (Thursday).”

Woodbury was a top-50 recruit and has started every game. Because of his stature, Woodbury often has been a target for fan ire, but the Sioux City native said he’s focused strictly on his teammates’ and coaches’ sentiments.

“I try not to get involved with that,” Woodbury said. “They’re going to say what they want to say and they have their own opinions. But what really matters is our 16 guys on the team, our coaches and our staff. That’s all that really matters to me is their opinions and try to keep building.”

Thursday he opened alongside junior power forward Melsahn Basabe, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this season. It provided Iowa with a bigger lineup and gave the Hawkeyes an edge on the boards.

“We’re still getting used to it,” Woodbury said. “We haven’t been playing that too often this whole year, but I think it’s working well.”

THREE THOUGHTS

1. Basabe move is the right one. No Iowa player has competed with more consistency in Big Ten play than junior forward Melsahn Basabe. In his last three games, Basabe has averaged 9.3 rebounds. Thursday, he produced a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Basabe had played 27 and 31 minutes at Ohio State and Purdue, respectively. He usually made an immediate impact off the bench so McCaffery was concerned a start could dilute that production.

"I don't always like to make changes when a guy's playing really well where he is in the role that he's in," McCaffery said. "But I felt like he had earned the right to start, so I put him in the starting lineup."

Basabe will be essential in Iowa's next two games. The Hawkeyes played back-to-back road games at Minnesota and Wisconsin, and both are strong rebounding squads.

2. Oglesby is close. Iowa sophomore Josh Oglesby has struggled from 3-point range this year (7-of-31 in Big Ten play), and he made only one of five 3-point shots on Thursday. But it didn't seem like a normal continuation of poor shot selection or lack of confidence. All of the shots were good looks.

"I thought every one of those was going in," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "He made eight (Wednesday) in practice. Eight. I feel so bad because the first one looked good. When he drilled the second one, I thought he was on his way. Then I feel bad because I feel like every time I take him out, it puts pressure on him. I want to just leave him in there."

3. Most important week of the season. At 3-5, Iowa has little margin for error if it wants to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Iowa plays three games in a seven-day stretch -- at Minnesota on Sunday, at Wisconsin on Wednesday and then hosts Northwestern on Saturday. Anything less than two wins makes any road to the NCAA very difficult. While neither road location provides an easy backdrop, the Hawkeyes did win their last outing in both buildings.

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