ST. THOMAS, USVI — Freshman Tyler Smith came off the bench to score 28 points to lead Iowa to a 78-65 win over Toledo in the first round of the Paradise Jam.
The Hawkeyes, 2-0, now face 10th-ranked Alabama in the semi-finals Sunday at 5 p.m. CT. That contest, along with Iowa’s final round game on Monday, will be telecast by Fox College Sports and selected regional Fox Sports outlets. The Crimson Tide advanced with a 71-62 win over Middle Tennessee State.
Smith, who had just two points in Iowa’s season opening win while fighting foul problems, made his mark early against the Rockets. He had 11 points on 5-7 field goals in the first half as the Hawkeyes built a 33-30 lead at the midway point.
Smith and the young Hawkeyes took over the boards in the second half in earning the win. For the game, Smith connected on 11-17 field goals and 5-8 free throws and made his only three-point attempt. He added six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes of action.
“I was more relaxed tonight and let the game come to me,” said Smith, following his break out performance. “I was able to make some shots early. After that, I was able to find the open guy as well when I was able to drive to the middle.”
Smith had plenty of help from his young teammates. Junior center Kurt Looby, in just his second game at Iowa, collected two quick fouls and played just two minutes in the first half. Consequently, the Hawkeyes held just a 21-19 rebounding advantage over the Rockets, a popular choice to win the Mid-American Conference this season after winning 20 games a year ago.
Looby was a different story in the second half. He ended the contest with 13 points and nine rebounds as the Hawkeyes won the rebounding battle 51-30. Junior center Seth Gorney and senior guard Adam Haluska each added 10 points and five rebounds. Cyrus Tate added nine points and seven rebounds off the bench as Iowa’s reserves scored 42 points.
A native of St. John’s Antigua, Looby might have been a little nervous with his mother, Oliver, in attendance. “I was looking around before the game and she wasn’t there yet,” said Looby. “I was a little out of position in getting those fouls in the first half. In the second half, after I saw my mother, I relaxed and played my game, rebounding and playing defense in the middle of the lane.”
Iowa shot 42.2% from the field, compared to 37.5% for Toledo. The Hawkeyes also shot 35.7% from three-point range and hit 19-25 (76%) free throws. Iowa’s defense also allowed the veteran Rockets just three free throw attempts in the second half.
“Tyler really played tonight like we have seen him practice,” said Iowa Coach Steve Alford. “He did a great job of taking the shots that were there, and passing the ball to open teammates. He was much more relaxed tonight and did a great job of creating things for both himself and his teammates.”
Toledo scored the first five points of the second half to take a 35-33 advantage. A three-point basket by Haluska put Iowa on top 40-38 and the Hawkeyes never trailed from there. Smith scored on a drive, sandwiched around two Looby dunks, and after another Smith basket on the break the Hawkeyes led 49-40 with 15 minutes to play. Toledo would get no closer than six points the rest of the way.
The Paradise Jam concludes with final round games on Monday. Iowa plays at Arizona State on Saturday, Nov. 25.