IOWA CITY — Richard Pitino saw it all too well, up close. Ten other Big Ten men’s basketball coaches couldn’t have liked what they saw here from afar Sunday afternoon.
Iowa’s 94-73 thumping of Minnesota in Carver-Hawkeye Arena came from the deep. Clamp down on Devyn Marble and Aaron White, and up pops a red-hot Josh Oglesby and hyperactive post player Gabe Olaseni. Plug one leak, and another immediately sprays you.
The Gophers were on the good side of a 43-41 halftime score, but had surrendered the last eight points of the first-half in a 65-second spree, six on two Oglesby bombs. What do we do if White and Marble get going, they had to wonder during the break.
They found out. The answer was “Not much.” The team’s two leading scorers this season teamed for 33 second-half points.
Iowa’s high-quality depth wasn’t a secret, but its effects have now mowed down two straight fine Big Ten teams on Sunday afternoons. Off the bench, Oglesby and Olaseni were men on fire against the Gophers, and Zach McCabe threw off plenty of sparks himself.
“They keep coming with guys,” said Minnesota coach Pitino, who had been fresh off a home win over Ohio State. “They’ve done a great job of recruiting.
“You look at how they go deeper and deeper in their bench, and there’s no drop-off.”
Oglesby had scored 13 points over Iowa’s first four Big Ten games. He had 14 at halftime Sunday, 17 total. He made five 3-pointers
Olaseni had scored four points over the previous two games. He had 12 Sunday, much of it off his six offensive rebounds.
Marble heated up immediately once the second-half started, and White quickly followed.
The reserves waited for the starters to catch up, then they all took off.
“We do have a starting five, but we don’t really have a starting five,” Olaseni said. “Because Coach will put you in. If you’re effective, he’ll keep you in.”
“We’ve got a lot of guys that I’m comfortable with having out there knowing that we have a team that can still score even though we’re behind,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
Oglesby missed the first dozen games of this season with a broken foot. He, and almost everyone else, wondered if he might just take a red-shirt season. McCaffery wanted him in the rotation, and everyone can see why.
The junior from Cedar Rapids was huge for the second-consecutive Sunday. It wasn’t just his gunning. He defends, and knows where to be on the floor. He has morphed from a shaky sophomore to a vital part of a team that will almost surely find itself in Associated Press’ Top Ten on Monday.
“It’s going to feel great to be in the Top Ten,” Oglesby said. “It’s going to be awesome.
“Growing up, I was always a huge Iowa fan. Me being here in the Top Ten and I’m on this team is just really special for me.”
Oglesby is playing like the player McCaffery kept saying he was. He is a zone-zapper.
Last winter, Oglesby didn’t build on the promise of his nice freshman season. He was an icy 42 of 156 from 3-point range, 26.9 percent. He wasn’t, frankly, the people’s choice.
So his absence earlier this season may have been dismissed as no big deal. But you sure wouldn’t want to be without him now, not someone who canned 5 of his 7 threes against Minnesota and is 12 of 20 from that distance in his six games.
“A lot of people were talking about me, doubting me, stuff like that,” Oglesby said, and he had his own doubts.
“I think I’m the most confident I’ve been since I’ve been here at Iowa. Last year when things weren’t going my way and I was in a slump, I couldn’t get out of it. I couldn’t get a shot to fall. I was kind of down in the dumps.
“Coach kept believing in me, kept telling me to shoot. I have to thank him.”
Olaseni, Oglesby’s classmate, said “I’m over the moon for him. I’m probably more happy than he is.”
Then there was senior forward McCabe. He had a great stat line, with five rebounds, three assists and three steals in 22 minutes. He had missed 18 of his last 19 three-point tries before sinking one late in Sunday’s game. He made eight threes in the Bahamas (three games) alone.
“He said in the locker room ‘Thank God I made that three,’” said Oglesby, McCabe’s roommate. “Zach’s a terrific shot. They’re going to fall.”
As for Olaseni, the 6-foot-10 Englishman had much to be happy about for his own play, but rued missed opportunities like failing to convert an alley-oop pass, and missing a baseline jumper and two of his six free throw tries.
“I’m a perfectionist,” he said.
It’s understandable. You can’t stand still on this team.