July 30, 2010
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Editor’s Note: The following was written by Ron Maly and first appeared in the March 20, 1993 edition of the Des Moines Register.
NASHVILLE, TENN. – It was only an NCAA Southeast Regional first-round game, but somehow the National Basketball Association came up afterward.
So did the name of Shaquille O’Neal, the standout NBA rookie from Orlando.
All because Iowa center Acie Earl scored 23 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots.
The 6-foot 10-inch senior was a dominating factor Friday as the Hawkeyes rolled past Northeast Louisiana, 82-69.
Iowa, shooting 63 percent in the last half and 58.9 percent for the game, won despite 26 turnovers. The Hawkeyes’ shooting percentage was their best in 20 games since a 59.1 performance against Drake on Jan. 4.
The victory, in front of 14, 600 fans in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym, sent Iowa (23-8) into a 1:35 p.m. second-round game Sunday against Wake Forest (20-8).
The Demon Deacons of the Atlantic Coast Conference whipped Tennessee-Chattanooga, 81-58, in Friday’s first game.
Earl was 4 inches taller than any Northeast Louisiana starter. After the game, he loomed even larger in the minds of Coach Mike Vining and his players. Earl’s brilliance played a huge role in ending the Indians’ 12-game winning streak.
“I think Earl can play in the NBA, and he’ll do well there,” Northeast Louisiana guard Keith Johnson said.
“We didn’t want Earl to alter our shots. But human nature took over, and he did alter our shots.”
SELA Coach Mike Vining
“Last season we played against O’Neal, and I don’t think Earl is as good as him. He’s a slow jumper, but he still got a lot of blocks. He was an intimidating factor.”
Ryan Stuart, who led Northeast Louisiana with 20 points, said Earl fooled the Indians. “Acie is very effective inside,” Stuart said. “All year long, we’ve been accustomed to playing against smaller players. We’ve been able to out-quick them.
“You think you’re jumping out of Earl’s reach, and all of a sudden he’s there. He’s a great player, and will even get better.”
Vining, whose team ended its season with a 26-5 record, marveled at Earl’s talents.
“We were able to get the ball inside, but couldn’t do much with it once we were in there,” Vining said. “We didn’t want Earl to alter our shots. But human nature took over, and he did alter our shots.”
Friday’s performance was another example of how far Earl has come since being recruited out of Moline (Ill.) High School as what Coach Tom Davis calls a project.
“He wasn’t a great player, but he’s worked hard and has become great,” Davis said.
Earl said he had nothing extra to prove in Friday’s game. He was first-team all-Big Ten Conference last season, but was dropped to the second team in this year’s voting.
“My dad told me it could have been worse,” Earl said. “I could have been Mitch Peplowski of Michigan State. He was bumped from being a first-team all-Big Ten player last season to honorable mention this season.
“The important thing is what a player does for his team.”
Earl said it’s Iowa’s goal to get beyond the second-round game. In their last three NCAA appearances, the Hawkeyes have been eliminated in the second round by an Atlantic Coast Conference team.
Earl said he wasn’t aware he scored 10 consecutive points that produced a 33-32 Iowa lead late in the first half against Northeast Louisiana.
The Indians had taken a 29-23 advantage, but Earl’s play enabled Iowa to jump in front, 37-32, at halftime. The Hawkeyes didn’t trail in the last half.
“Every now and then I go through one of those zones,” Earl said. “I make a few shots, and I’m not aware of what’s going on except me putting the ball in the basket – doing what it takes for us to be successful. That’s what happened today.”
Earl had 16 points and nine rebounds in the first half. His work on the backboards enabled Iowa to own a 45-23 advantage at the end.
Val Barnes added 15 points, James Winters 12 and reserve Kenyon Murray 10.
The Hawkeyes limited Northeast Louisiana to 45.1 percent shooting. The Indians came into the game as the nation’s leading field-goal shooting team at 52.4.
“We worked and worked, and finally got them tired out,” Iowa guard Kevin Smith said.
“In the second half, we settled down. We pounded the ball inside.”
However, forward Wade Lookingbill said Northeast Louisiana might have had the best group of athletes the Hawkeyes have faced.
“We had quite a bit of trouble against their pressure,” Lookingbill said. “But, in the end, our size wore them down.”
Davis extended his record in first-round NCAA games to 8-0 as the coach at Boston College and Iowa. He is 6-0 with the Hawkeyes. Northeast Louisiana is 0-6 in first-round games.
Davis said he wasn’t concerned about Iowa’s 26 turnovers Friday.
“In an up-tempo game, we don’t worry about the number of turnovers,” he said. “We were attempting to attack.”
Here’s a list of “MAD” Moments that have appeared previously inside hawkeyesports.com.