IOWA CITY — Iowa’s young post tandem of Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni went from potential to potent in the Hawkeyes’ final regular-season games last week.
The duo controlled the low post in wins against Illinois and Nebraska to close out regular-season play. Woodbury, a 7-foot-1 freshman, hit 10 of 13 shots for a combined 20 points. Olaseni, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, sank 3-of-4 attempts for six points but scoring hardly tells the story of his recent development.
Throwing in efforts by forwards Melsahn Basabe, Zach McCabe and Aaron White, the Hawkeyes’ interior is making strides as Iowa (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten) enters the Big Ten Tournament this week.
Against Nebraska, Iowa’s five post players were 20-of-25 from the field. Basabe scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds — including four on offense — in 21 minutes. Olaseni scored four points, pulled down three rebounds, dished three assists and blocked three shots in 17 minutes. McCabe scored six points, had three assists and had three rebounds.
White was the offensive catalyst for Iowa against Nebraska. White finished with 19 points and six rebounds and he was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. As a group, the five post players sank 11 of 12 free throws.
“They played really well,” Iowa guard Devyn Marble said. “We really made an effort to get them the ball inside. I was pushing it, feeding it down low. Woody had a really good game. Mel had a double-double; he played well. Gabe was blocking shots and rebounding and running. They really played well (Saturday). Hopefully we can continue to have them play at that level and all of us can fall in behind.”
Woodbury earned his Big Ten-high in points with 12 against Nebraska, making all six attempts in 18 minutes. He scored on layups, jump hooks and shots off the glass.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Woodbury has become more comfortable in the offense, especially when he makes an early shot. He scored Iowa’s first two baskets against Illinois, and two of the first three against Nebraska.
“I got some good looks and capitalized on them,” Woodbury said. “I feel like we can do that any game.”
“The thing about Adam is he just keeps working,” McCaffery said. “He’s improved a lot. I think you’ve seen him, he’s not turning it over, he’s not taking bad shots. You know he’s going to rebound and defend, you know he’s going to run, he’s going to play with great energy, and then he gets a couple shots to go in, and he’s just that much more comfortable out there.”
Olaseni has made the most progress. He blocked seven shots against Illinois and added three more against Nebraska. He scored two dunks on assists in the second half, and made two passes in the post that led to a Basabe dunk and a Woodbury layup.
“I think Gabe was just phenomenal,” Basabe said. “Two big-time dunks. He caught the ball and went right up. He was making passes, blocking shots. I think it was just confidence, and confidence is everything in basketball. The game is very simple. I just know if you’re playing with confidence a person can look totally different and all it is, is confidence.”
The Hawkeyes will be a confident group entering their game against Northwestern (13-18, 4-14). In their two meetings this year, Iowa won by a combined 34 points. The Hawkeyes were dominant in the paint, outscoring the Wildcats 76-42 in those games.