July 21, 2010
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was written by Rick Brown and first appeared in the March 16, 2001 edition of the Des Moines Register.
UNIONDALE, N.Y.–Dean Oliver had a scowl on his face, an eclectic mix of determination, frustration and panic.
His Iowa basketball team was on the ropes. Creighton had scored the first 10 points of the second half, erasing a two-point halftime deficit.
“This could be the end of my career,” Oliver, Iowa’s senior point guard, told himself. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
It was an idle thought. Oliver rallied the 24h-ranked Hawkeyes to a 69-56 victory in a first-round NCAA East Regional game at Nassau Coliseum.
“Luckily, things clicked,” Oliver said with the knowledge that his college career had been extended for at least one more game.
The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes, 23-11, meet second-seeded and ninth-ranked Kentucky, 23-9, at 7 p.m. CST Saturday.
Reggie Evans led Iowa with 19 points, 12 coming in the last 4 ½ minutes. Evans, a 61 percent free-throw shooter, made nine straight at one point and 13 of 15 for the game.
“I didn’t know I had made that many in a row,” Evans said. “I remember doing that in practice, but never in a game.”
Duez Henderson added 16 points and Oliver 15 points, four assists, two steals and just one turnover in 30 minutes.
“This could be the end of my career. That’s exactly what I was thinking. Luckily, things clicked.”
Dean Oliver told the Des Moines Register after Iowa’s victory over Creighton in the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
Shooting guard Brody Boyd bruised his right knee in a fall with 8:17 remaining and didn’t return to the game. X-rays showed no damage to the knee, and he is listed as questionable for Saturday.
Ben Walker and Lavin Pyfrom scored 11 points each and Kyle Korver, a sophomore from Pella, IA, added 10 for Creighton.
Korver’s two three-pointers made him just the second player in Missouri Valley Conference history to make 100 in a season. But he needed 13 attempts to do it, and missed his last six.
“All but two of them felt perfect,” a distraught Korver said. “I really thought they were going to go in. They just didn’t. And I feel real bad, because we have a lot of seniors who don’t deserve to go out like this.”
One of those seniors was point guard Ryan Sears of Ankeny, who scored eight points to go with four assists, two steals, and three turnovers.
Korver didn’t have a monopoly on cold shooting. The Bluejays missed 20 of their last 21 attempts from the field.
Iowa’s comeback from a second-half deficit that grew as large as 11 points Thursday mirrors its season. A week and a half ago, the Hawkeyes were fighting for their postseason lives.
“We didn’t know if we’d be playing in the NCAA or the NIT,” admitted Iowa’s Henderson.
Now the Hawkeyes head to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with the moniker of Big Ten champions.
Creighton, 24-8 and the regular-season Missouri Valley champion, was the aggressor early in the second half.
Korver’s three with 14:03 remaining put the Bluejays in front, 45-34, and Creighton got possession of the ball after Iowa’s Rod Thompson was called for a foul underneath while the shot was in the air.
Another basket might have buried Iowa. But a Creighton turnover led to Henderson’s three-point basket. Oliver and Glen Worley converted on traditional three-point plays the next two trips down and the momentum started to turn.
“That gave Iowa its aggressiveness back,” Creighton Coach Dana Altman said.
It was 49-49 when Evans scored seven unanswered points to give Iowa a cushion with 3:14 left. Creighton’s shots weren’t falling, and Evans’ free throws were.
“I didn’t know he was that good of a free-throw shooter,” Sears said. “We were expecting him to miss, but he stepped up and knocked them down.” Iowa outscored Creighton over the last 14 minutes, 35-11, and made 22 of its last 24 free throws.
The Bluejays shot just 27.3 percent from the field in the second half and 33.3 percent for the game. Iowa shot just 39.1 percent, but made 30 of 35 free throws.
Evans has shot more free throws this season, 183, than anyone else in the nation.
Iowa’s 731 made free throws and 1,039 attempts are both single-season school records.
Iowa Coach Steve Alford’s motto is “wear them out, foul them out,” and it worked to perfection Thursday.
Alford likes his team to pound away at the opponent, bringing on fatigue while the Hawkeyes parade to the free-throw line.
“Wear them out, foul them out,” Evans said. “I knew it was coming. You could just see it in their eyes.”
For Sears, Thursday marked the end of a grand career. He leaves as the Missouri Valley’s career steals leader, fifth in career assists and fifth in career three-point baskets to go with 1,309 points.
Oliver and Sears shared a hug when it was over.
“I told him he had a great career, and that I’d try and represent the Central Iowa Metropolitan League well,” said Oliver, from Mason City. “It’s unreal the numbers he had at Creighton, and what he’s done there.”
On a day when Alford ended a personal six-game losing streak to Altman, Oliver got his fifth victory against Sears in 11 tries.
“We’ve had some good battles,” Sears said. “He’s won a few, I’ve won a few. This is the last one, I guess. He got the last win.”