IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Facing a team known for its outside shooting, sixteenth-ranked Iowa decided to take the ball inside.
The Hawkeyes scored 48 points in the paint and took only six 3-pointers Tuesday night in a 73-63 win over Air Force.
Pierre Pierce led Iowa with 19 points and Greg Brunner scored 17. Pierce missed his only 3-point shot and Brunner didn’t attempt any shots from beyond the arc. The Falcons, on the other hand, attempted 36 3-pointers and made 14.
“We thought if we could get them to shoot from 20 feet and we were shooting from two feet, we would have a very good chance of winning,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said.
“In a game like this when you’re playing the style we’ve played, I thought it was much more important that we attack the paint and attack the basket,” Alford said.
After leading 29-17 at halftime, the Hawkeyes (11-1) opened the second half with a 17-6 run. Pierce scored seven points during that stretch and gave Iowa a 46-23 lead with a slam dunk after a steal by Adam Haluska.
Over the next eight minutes the Hawkeyes padded their lead to 61-37 and appeared to be on their way to a comfortable win with 6:36 to play.
The Falcons (6-5) responded with a 15-1 run. Tim Keller and Jacob Burtschi each hit a 3-pointer, and Nick Welch and Antoine Hood contributed four points each.
A basket by Hood with 2:19 left cut Iowa’s lead to 62-52. The Hawkeyes held on from there, going 9-of-10 from the foul line in the final two minutes.
“We hadn’t been shooting free throws very well lately, but we made some big ones down the stretch,” said Iowa’s Jeff Horner, who finished with just seven points, but was 4-4 from the foul line at the end of the game.
Burtschi led Air Force with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Hood added 12, while Keller and Dan Nwaelele had 11 each.
In the first half, both teams were slow to recover from the long holiday layoff. Iowa hadn’t played in a week, while Air Force was back on the court for the first time since Dec. 13. The Hawkeyes threw away several passes and missed numerous shots close to the basket. The Falcons were plagued by turnovers, including two shot-clock violations and three calls for traveling.
Alford improved his record at Iowa to 100-72 in his sixth season with the Hawkeyes.
“All that means is I’m getting older,” Alford said. “I’m just pleased for our program. I think we’re going in the direction we want to go. Wins are always a result of players doing their jobs.”