IOWA CITY — Everybody knows what “dagger” means in basketball vocabulary. It’s the exclamation point, the last shovelful of dirt, the coup de grâce on a team’s way to victory.
No. 13 Iowa (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten) had about 40 daggers in its 85-67 victory over No. 16 Michigan (17-6, 9-2) on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. For sake of argument and for this particular storyline, let’s go with Adam Woodbury’s fast-break dunk that gave Iowa a 71-45 lead with 7:30 left in the second half.
After the 7-1 center dunked, he turned and gave the Carver-Hawkeye crowd a quick and suble “shush” sign, with his finger over his lips.
The sophomore has listened to the “he can’t dunk” and had a little fun with it.
“That was amazing,” junior forward Aaron White said of the “shush.” “I was laughing on the floor. People give him a hard time because he doesn’t dunk. He got one and he was all excited and that was hilarious.”
This was a “shush” game for the Hawkeyes. After winning 20 straight at Carver, Iowa had lost two in a row with Tuesday’s 76-69 loss to Ohio State. The Big Ten championship math, with Iowa trailing the leaders by three games going into Saturday, started to line up against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes went through a general malaise with loses in three of their last five. Saturday, they were never seriously contested by the No. 16 team in the country and a Big Ten co-leader.
“I feel like top to bottom, everyone played well tonight,” guard Mike Gesell said. “Coming off Ohio State, a game we felt we could’ve won, this was a huge game. Michigan is ahead of us in the standings and our ultimate goal is a Big Ten championship. We came out with a lot of energy.”
At least from one game to the next, Iowa’s 3-point shooting struggles were shushed. After clocking in with 3 of 20 against Ohio State, made 10 of 17, including Devyn Marble’s 6 of 10. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he didn’t put up a stop sign because of the OSU performance.
“I always say keep shooting, just the way I am,” McCaffery said. “I never want my guys to have any doubt in my mind they are going to shoot the ball, it’s going to go in.”
Another “shush” came from senior forward Zach McCabe, who woke up Wednesday morning to find a Not Zach McCabe account on Twitter. He kind of saw something like that coming, hitting 11 of 37 shots the last seven games, including 1 of 8 against Ohio State. Saturday, McCabe had a well-rounded performance, hitting 3 of 5 from the floor, 1 of 2 at the arc, and scoring seven points with six rebounds.
“It’s kind of funny,” McCabe said of Not Zach McCabe. “Hey, maybe I’m moving up in the world a little bit.”
More shushes: Forward Melsahn Basabe went from four rebounds against the Buckeyes to 10 against Michigan, which was exposed in the paint with Iowa grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and holding a 34-18 advantage in points in the paint.
And then the Woodbury dunk, which has happened before. You know it has.
“People give Woody crap that he can’t jump,” McCabe said. “He can get up. Just to see him dunk that, it kept our defensive intensity going.”
Woodbury said the “shush” was for the dunk thing. It was a little “I told you so.”
“Everybody has been on my case about dunking,” Woodbury said. “Showing that I can actually do it is always fun.”
So, until next week at Penn State, the Hawkeyes leave you with “shush.”
“We played a very good team today, came out strong and sustained it through the whole game,” Woodbury said. “We showed we can hang with anyone. We need to sustain that through next Saturday.”