LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Iowa stayed close in the first half against Louisville on Monday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, and the Hawkeyes dominated the next 20 minutes.
Jeff Horner scored 11 points in a 4½-minute span of the second half, part of a nine-minute stretch when Iowa held Louisville (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 AP) without a field goal, and the Hawkeyes went on to a 76-71 victory.
“I thought in the second half we performed extremely well,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “I thought our defense went to another level and we executed offensively.”
That happened after a challenge from the coach to his players.
“At halftime I told them we were down four points to a team that shot 61 percent. I told them they weren’t going to shoot 61 percent again so we had to step up, concentrate and play defense,” Alford said. “I really challenged Jeff, Adam (Haluska) and Pierre (Pierce). I wouldn’t trade those three guys for anybody and I thought in the first half they weren’t themselves. They did what we knew they would, they responded to the challenge.”
Now Iowa (2-0) will play Texas (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today; No. 15 AP) in the semifinals on Tuesday. The Longhorns (2-0) beat Chaminade 84-62 on Monday.
Juan Palacios scored inside with 11:39 to play to give Louisville (1-1) a 48-42 lead, but that was the Cardinals’ last field goal for nine minutes as Iowa went up 67-56. Louisville missed 10 shots in that span and managed just eight points, all on free throws.
“Give them all the credit, they played a much better second half,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “We played a good first half and then did not run our offense efficiently, did not get as much enjoyment out of our passing and they did a much better job on defense in the second half.”
Meanwhile, Horner, who finished with 18 points and six assists, went on his own scoring binge. The 6-foot-3 junior hit a 3-pointer with 11:18 left and added two more in his 11-point run. Both of those gave Iowa the lead, the second for good at 55-52 with 7:39 to play.
“We knew we needed something and as one of our leaders I felt I had to step up,” Horner said. “Once I hit those shots I could feel everybody step up, especially on defense.”
The Hawkeyes got the lead up to 11 points before Larry O’Bannon finally hit a shot for Louisville, a jumper that made it 67-58 with 2:39 to play.
Louisville led 34-30 at halftime and neither team was up by more than six points until Iowa’s defense forced Louisville’s drought. The Hawkeyes did a good job on the perimeter and inside. By denying baskets, they never allowed Louisville to set up its press.
“If you don’t rotate early enough on Horner he’ll kill you and we could not defend their dribble penetration,” Pitino said. “He killed us with some big shots.”Pierce added 16 points for Iowa and Greg Brunner had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Haluska had 14 points for Iowa and was 7-for-9 from the free-throw line while the rest of the team went 17-for-29. Erek Hansen had six rebounds and five blocked shots for Iowa.
“Our bigs stepped up,” said Brunner, one of Iowa’s frontcourt players. “We took it to heart. We’re not as big or as tall as they are but I thought we played a big game.”
Francisco Garcia had 17 points for the Cardinals, who finished 7-for-23 from 3-point range. Ellis Myles added 12 points and eight rebounds.
“We didn’t pass the ball very well,” Garcia said. “We weren’t focused on offense and we tried to do too much for ourselves.”
This was the second straight season Iowa beat Louisville in an early matchup. The Hawkeyes won 70-69 in overtime last year in the John Wooden Tradition.
Iowa won this tournament, sponsored by EA Sports, in 1987.