It appeared that the Nittany Lions were grabbing momentum when the Iowa senior slyly stepped in front of D.J. Newbill's inbound pass. The Hawkeyes clung to a one-point lead at the time.
Penn State fouled White after his thievery. The captain sank both free throws, helping send Iowa to an 81-77 victory in State College.
White finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds in 43 minutes Saturday. He connected on 11 of 12 foul shots as the Hawkeyes (19-10 overall, 10-6 Big Ten) won their fourth conference game in a row for the first time since 2005-06.
Iowa heads to Indiana Tuesday looking to capture five consecutive decisions in league play for the first time since '96-97. The Hawkeyes are a long way from back-to-back losses to Minnesota and at Northwestern a few weeks ago.
"It was amazing," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "The steal was the play of the game. This was a hard-fought game. Both teams really competed. Both teams out themselves in position to win and somebody has to make a play. He made it."
The Nittany Lions (15-14, 3-13) played inspired basketball Saturday and built a 12-point lead nine minutes into the game. They still enjoyed a seven-point advantage with under five minutes to play before halftime.
Iowa, who had lost five of its last seven at the Bryce Jordan Center, responded. Josh Oglesby came off the bench to drill two three-pointers and Jarrod Uthoff sank one trey as the visitors scored the final nine points of the first half to grab a 31-29 lead at the break.
Undeterred, Penn State took off on a 14-7 run to start the second half to grab a 43-37 lead with 17:06 to play in regulation. The Hawkeyes battled back in a game that saw eight lead changes and seven ties.
Two White free throws put Iowa ahead 61-54 with 7:39 left in the second half. It was the Lions turn to rebound. And they did.
Penn State reeled off a 7-0 run to tie it with 6:24 to go in the second. Iowa took the lead again, the home team rallied back for the lead and then the Hawkeyes went back up by two with 2:12 left.
Neither team could find the bottom of the net until Newbill hit two free throws with :18 on the clock to tie it at 68-68. Uthoff misfired on a three that could have won it for Iowa and the teams headed for overtime.
Uthoff and Mike Gesell began the extra session with three-pointers to put the visitors ahead by six. True to form on this day, the Lions battled back and trailed just 75-74 after Gesell hit one of two free throws with :31 left in overtime. They had the ball with a chance to regain the lead.
White acted like he was going to run down the court after Gesell's make but instead darted back in front of Newbill's pass intended for Geno Thorpe, who fouled Iowa's leader. He sank all six of his fouls shots from there to seal the deal.
"That was all him," McCaffery said of White's steal. "I wish I could take some credit (for scouting). That's all him."
Gesell finished with 14 points and seven assists against just two turnovers in 40 minutes. Oglesby and Gabe Olaseni each contributed 12 points while Uthoff added 11 to go with eight rebounds, three assists (no turnovers), a block and a steal.
The Hawkeyes won for the fifth time on the road in the Big Ten.
"When it's all said and done, if you want to be a good team in this league, you've got be able to maintain your composure on the road and win a game like this," McCaffery said.
Iowa reached 10 wins and sealed a winning record in the conference for the first time in McCaffery's five seasons. The Hawkeyes were 9-9 the last two seasons.
"It feels better than 9-9 but it's not…we're just going to go on to the next (game)," McCaffery said of the achievement. "We've got an unbelievable team (Indiana) Tuesday night on the road again and they'e one of the hottest teams in our league. We just want to keep getting better. You don't ever want to stop at this time and evaluate anything like that. You can do that when the season is over. You can look back and say, boy we did something special, we did something that hadn't been done in awhile but not now."