IOWA CITY, Iowa — Junior forward Cyrus Tate stepped up big when the Iowa Hawkeyes needed it most Saturday night, helping guide the University of Iowa to a hard-fought 57-50 victory over Southeastern Louisiana.
Tate, who saw limited action in the first half after collecting two quick fouls, came off the bench in the second stanza after freshman Jarryd Cole injured his left knee to score 10 points and grab six rebounds as Iowa outscored the visiting Lions 39-25 in the final 20 minutes and collect win No. 7.
“He really came through. I think it speaks well of Cy that he was ready to play at a high level when we really needed it,” UI Coach Todd Lickliter said of Tate’s instrumental play.
Tate was one of four Hawkeyes who scored in double-digits, a quartet that was paced by Tony Freeman, who scored a team-high 15, including seven from the charity stripe and five in the final minute. Freeman also nailed a pair of three pointers, grabbed seven rebounds and was credited with four assists and three steals.
It was Freeman’s bucket from behind the arc with 3:01 that gave Iowa a 46-44 lead, a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. Tate’s layup at 1:29 pushed the margin to 48-44. Iowa made nine of 10 free throws in the final minute to close the door on the Lions.
After scoring the game’s first five points, Iowa struggled and went into intermission down 25-18. The Hawkeyes shot just 33 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, were outrebounded 19-12 – and didn’t have a single offensive board – and committed nine turnovers.
“We had better poise and patience in the second half. We came up with some loose balls and protected the basketball. Four turnovers (in the second half)…that’s the way we like it,” said Iowa’s head coach.
But, lost in the numbers of the first half was Iowa’s determination and its defense. The Hawkeyes trimmed the Lions’ lead from 14 down to seven before the break. Defensively, Iowa forced its visitors into 20 turnovers – 12 in the second half – that they converted into 18 points.
“We never quit guarding and that’s huge. We scored early and then couldn’t make a basket. But we kept defending and that shows character,” said Lickliter, who lauded the 10,000-plus fans who gave his team an emotional boost during the end of a nice run early in the second half.
“They were big. They were huge for us. I hope they enjoyed being a part of the win because they provided that emotional boost.”
The Hawkeyes now turn their attention to their 2008 Big Ten Conference season opener next Wednesday against Indiana. The game will tip shortly after 8 p.m. and will be televised live by the Big Ten Network.