IOWA CITY — The absence of head coach Fran McCaffery didn’t seem to faze the Iowa basketball team Thursday night.
It certainly didn’t bother Aaron White or Melsahn Basabe.
And it definitely didn’t impair the Hawkeyes’ shooting touch.
White and Basabe led the way as the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes shot as well as they have all season in a 93-67 victory over Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
White collected 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and helped corral Northwestern scoring leader Drew Crawford. Basabe scored a season-high 16 points, added 10 rebounds and reached the 1,000-point plateau for his career. Devyn Marble added 15 points and six assists.
Basabe said it was “no big deal” that it was assistant coach Kirk Speraw calling the shots on the bench instead of McCaffery. It was, as White put it, “business as usual.’’
“It was a different voice during the game but our coaches all have the same mindset, the same approach,’’ White added.
Basabe said it may have been a slightly quieter bench with the occasionally bombastic McCaffery serving a one-game suspension resulting from his mid-game tirade Sunday at Wisconsin. But Marble wasn’t even sure that was the case.
“Maybe as the game was going on but I wouldn’t say that in the timeouts,’’ Marble said. “He (Speraw) is just as intense as Coach McCaffery. He just doesn’t have the same personality in the sense of yelling as we’re in the game. But he’s not any different in timeouts. If you’re doing something wrong, he’ll jump you, too.’’
Speraw, who served as the head coach at Central Florida for 17 seasons, didn’t really need to do much shouting as the Hawkeyes (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) shrugged off the controversy of the week and did what they needed to do.
As a team, they shot 56.9 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line in the contest.
The Hawkeyes also outrebounded Northwestern 41-28 in the game, including a 22-9 margin in the first half. Perhaps most impressively, they recorded 22 assists on 29 made baskets.
“They really approached the week with great maturity and focus, and I thought they executed the game plan very well tonight …’’ Speraw said.
“It was just a fun evening for our guys to get out and play another Big Ten team. I just try to fill in however I need to fill in … It certainly wasn’t me out there tonight. It was the players and the entire coaching staff.’’
The Hawkeyes jumped to an early 10-0 lead as Northwestern was held scoreless for nearly 5 minutes at the outset of the game.
Junior swingman JerShon Cobb, who finished with 18 points, helped the Wildcats (7-9, 0-3) stay fairly close for much of the first half until White scored 10 points in a 12-4 Iowa scoring run that pushed the lead to 41-26 at halftime.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Hawkeyes built the lead as high as 29 (88-59).
“I thought we were fine early in the game,’’ Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “We forced some turnovers but their athleticism and depth wore us down …
“It’s one thing to see them on tape, but it’s another thing to see them up close and personal. They’re big at every position.’’
Basabe reached 1,000 points for his career when he dropped in a pair of free throws with 1:40 remaining in the first half, joining White and Marble as 1,000-point scorers for their careers.
“It means the jockey can get off my back,’’ said a smiling Basabe, who put up his best scoring numbers in his first college season. “I haven’t just been asleep like everyone thinks since freshman year. I haven’t been hibernating like a bear … All jokes aside I’m happy for it.’’
It’s the fifth time Iowa has had three active 1,000-point scorers on the roster in the same season. It also happened in 1988 (Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong, Jeff Moe), 1989 (Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong, Ed Horton), 1996 (Jess Settles, Kenyon Murray, Chris Kingsbury) and 2005 (Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, Pierre Pierce).