IOWA CITY, Iowa - Nebraska Coach Tim Miles didn't struggle for a reason as to why his team fell, 74-60, to Iowa here in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday.
"It looked to me like a mismatch," Miles said. "Their fours and fives were like 13 out of 15 (shooting). We don't allow that many dunks usually and have it go your way."
Miles numbers were close. Hawkeye interior players Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe, Adam Woobury, Gabe Olaseni and Zach McCabe finished a stunning 20 of 25 from the floor. Many of them came on slams that brought the crowd of 15,400 to its feet, compounding the problems for Nebraska.
"We didn't do a very good job of containing screen-and-roll," Miles said. "We had a couple guys that would just over help and not protect the rim. I thought we have that down. Maybe not."
Basabe scored 11 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds. White chipped in with 19 points and six boards. Iowa (20-11 overall, 9-9 Big Ten) connected on 16 of 22 field goal attempts (72.7 percent) in the second half.
Olaseni and McCabe came off the Iowa bench to dish out three assists apiece. Eric May recorded six assists against one turnover on his senior day. Iowa totaled 21 assists on their 28 field goals.
Iowa has positioned itself on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading to next week's Big Ten Tournament in Chicago with a sixth-place finish in the nation's top conference. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Linardi projected the Hawkeyes has one of his second, four teams out of the Big Dance on Saturday, meaning they'd be in the group of eight teams left for the NIT.
"I think we deserve tremendous consideration," said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery, who won his 300th career game. "I definitely feel like we're one of the best 68 teams. I think to have gone through this league, clearly the best league in the country, and finished nine and nine; I think you look at how we played in our losses, we had a double overtime loss, an overtime loss, we played Michigan State without our leading scorer; we won three out of four without our third leading scorer and our starting point guard. So we've accomplished a great deal."
It seems logical with Iowa's relatively low RPI (70s) and strength of schedule (90s), a minimum of a first-round Big Ten Tournament win Thursday against Northwestern (8 p.m., ESPN2) is required for inclusion in the NCAAs. A win in Round Two against one of the league's Top 5 teams would give the Hawkeyes a strong case for their first Big Dance since 2006.
Woodbury said Saturday that the motivation all year has been playing for May, a senior who has gone through some lean seasons in the black and gold.
"He hasn't played in the NCAA Tournament since he's been here so we kind of want to give him that opportunity," Woodbury said.
May added six rebounds to go with his six assists on his senior day at Carver. He hoped it was his last game in the facility as another contest there would mean an NIT game. That's not the goal.
"It's interesting to think that way but we don't want to come back here," May said. "We want to be playing at a neutral site (in the NCAA Tournament)."
Nebraska (14-17, 5-13) knocked off the Hawkeyes, 64-60, Feb. 21 in Lincoln. The Huskers proved pesky again on Saturday.
Iowa raced out to a 10-1 lead to start the game but the visitors responded similarly to the way they did to overcome a 19-point deficit to defeat the Hawkeyes at home. A %%MATCH_11%% lay-up with 14:21 left in the game cut the home team's lead to 46-44.
The Iowa bench then came to the rescue. Basabe, Olaseni and %%MATCH_10%% (11 points, 4 of 6 shooting) sparked a 17-0 run. The Hawkeyes led 63-44 with 6:06 on the clock. It was a 19-point lead they would not relinquish.
Iowa reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 2005-06 season. It achieved at least .500 in the conference for the first time since '06-07.
"I think the important thing is we realize this is just a step," McCaffery said. "I'm happy for Eric to be the captain of the 20-win team. I'm happy for our team to have accomplished this, but we're not done, and you never want to be satisfied."
Iowa could get a boost at the Big Ten Tournament if Mike Gesell, out since the first Nebraska game with a foot injury, can return. McCaffery believes it will happen.
"Getting Mike back, that will help, and I think that will happen," McCaffery said. "So, that will give us another hand, another shooter, another play maker."