INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Steve Alford figured the key to beating Louisville was for his Iowa Hawkeyes to play hard and smart.
Alford was correct.
Pierre Pierce made hit the first of two free throws with 9.2 seconds left in overtime Saturday, and Greg Brunner scored a career-high 26 points to lead Iowa to a 70-69 victory over No. 17 Louisville at the Wooden Tradition.
“We knew we probably wouldn’t make more 3s than them, so I thought the two areas we could beat them in were on the boards and at the free throw line,” Alford said.
The Hawkeyes attained one of Alford’s goals, holding a 45-27 advantage in rebounds, and, ironically, won from the free-throw line, where they had struggled much of the game.
Iowa (3-0) shot just 13-for-24 from the line.
But for Alford, it was what he had hoped for.
The Hawkeyes fought hard, took advantage of the Cardinals’ mistakes, and took care of the ball better than they had in their previous two games – even against Louisville’s tight pressure defense.
And with their leading scorer, Pierce, on the bench for almost nine minutes in the second half, they relied on other scorers.
Brunner shot 10-for-14 and gave Iowa a strong inside presence in place of the injured Glen Worley.
Pierce finished with eight points, five assists and six rebounds, while Brody Boyd hit four 3-pointers and finished with 22 points.
“We worked on being poised all week,” Boyd said. “When you have poise and confidence, you’re going to win games.”
Louisville, which was one of the last three Division I schools to open play Saturday, looked as if it was playing its season-opener.
The Cardinals shot just 40.4 percent from the field and made nearly as many 3-pointers (11) as they did 2-pointers (12). Their patented pressure defense was only effective in spurts, and there were too many errors.
The result was predictable: Louisville lost its first season opener in coach Rick Pitino’s three seasons.
Pitino’s opening-game record as a college coach dropped to 15-3, and he lost for the second straight year at the Wooden Tradition.
“I felt our scheduling was the reason we lost this game,” Pitino said. “They executed better at the endings of plays and I thought not having a couple games under our belt really hurt us.”
The Cardinals also blew several opportunities to take control.
At the end of regulation, they couldn’t grab a rebound when Boyd missed a driving layup.
Then, with 39 seconds left in overtime, Luke Whitehead stepped on the baseline before going up for a dunk. That basket would have snapped a 69-all tie.
“I’ve just got to recognize where I’m at on the floor,” Whitehead said. “I thought I was where I was supposed to be.”
Whitehead still helped keep Louisville in it, finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Iowa looked as if it might pull away after using a 13-3 spurt to regain the lead midway through the second half, and then extending its advantage to 55-47 with 8:28 left in regulation.
The Cardinals responded with nine straight points, but Iowa answered with its own 7-0 run to make it 62-56 with 3? minutes left.
“The hardest thing in basketball is when you have the lead and then you relinquish it,” Alford said. “I looked down our bench and said ‘These guys are fighting like crazy.’ “
Taquan Dean’s 3-pointer with 53.3 seconds left tied it at 63, and the Hawkeyes had a chance to win it in regulation after Boyd’s miss, but Pierce couldn’t hit a driving layup. Dean finished with 15 points – all on 3-pointers.
Iowa opened the overtime with Brunner’s two free throws and Boyd’s two breakaway layups to make it 69-63. Then Larry O’Bannon hit two 3-pointers to tie the score at 69 with 1:24 left.
The only other point the rest of the way came when Pierce went 1-for-2 from the foul line. Nate Daniels’ 15-footer bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Alford said. “This game is about the psyche of an athlete and we have the attitude now that we can be pretty good team.”