March 20, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
SEATTLE — The seventh-seeded University of Iowa men’s basketball team rode the coat tail of senior Aaron White to its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001.
White scored a game-high 26 points, including 20 in Iowa’s dominating second half, and the Hawkeyes used a staunch defensive effort to crush 10th-seeded Davidson, 83-52, in the Round of 64 on Friday night at KeyArena.
“I am not sure we can play much better than we played in this game,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “I am proud of our team, their focus.”
The 31 point margin of victory is the largest in an NCAA Tournament game in school history (previous best was 29 points in Sweet 16 over Penn State in 1955) and the largest margin in a No. 7 vs. No. 10 matchup in NCAA Tournament history.
White led a trio of Iowa players in double figures, making 11-of-14 field goals en route to his 26 point output. It was the forward’s sixth-straight 20-point game, making him the first Hawkeye since Greg Stokes in 1985 to accomplish the feat. White also had six rebounds in 35 minutes.
The Hawkeyes shot 50.7 percent from the floor, making 35-of-69 field goal attempts and six 3-pointers. Iowa dominated the rebounding, 46-30, including 14 offensive rebounds, and outscored Davidson, 36-26, in paint points.
Iowa’s defense was stifling, limiting Davidson to 52 points — nearly 30 points below its season average — including just 23 points in the second half. The Wildcats shot 33.3 percent from the floor and 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
“We did a good job contesting the 3-point line, which isn’t easy to do against this team because they have 3-point shooters who can also drive one through four,” said McCaffery. “Our length disrupted their ability to get comfortable 3s.”
After a tightly contested first 10 minutes of the game, Iowa took control of the game during the latter stages of the first half, turning a 13-12 deficit into a 29-17 lead over a five minute span. The Hawkeye frontline scored the first 12 points during a 15-4 spurt before Jok connected on a 3-pointer to open a 12 point lead.
Iowa led 38-29 at half, but the Wildcats scored nine of the first 15 points of the second half to close the gap to 44-38 at the 17:10 mark. The Hawkeyes responded with five straight on a Jok jumper and a Gesell 3-pointer to open up a 49-38 lead before turning the show over to White.
With Iowa leading 49-40, White went off, scoring 13 straight Hawkeye points. He started the run with consecutive runners before slamming home a dunk to make the score 55-41. He followed with a steal and layup to push the margin to 16 before connecting on a 3-pointer to push the lead to 60-41.
When his run was done, Iowa led 62-41 with 11:01 to play.
“There was a stretch where I was feeling confident, feeling good with my shot, with my hook and was finishing around the basket,” said White. “Most of the credit goes to my teammates and the coaches for running stuff for me.”
“When he gets going, it’s incumbent upon me and my staff to get him the ball and then what we do is get him the ball in various locations — post him up, pop him out, isolate him on driving action,” said McCaffery. “When he gets going like that, it becomes infectious to the rest of the team.
“The beautiful thing about him and our team is when he was really cooking, we weren’t trading baskets, we were going back and getting stops. That’s how you extend the lead and that’s what good teams do and that’s what the great ones do. He’s a great one.”
White’s run sucked the energy out of the Wildcats, and Iowa’s defense did the rest, limiting Davidson to just four points over the final 9:31.
Davidson had a pair of players finish in double figures with Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge scoring 14 points apiece. The Hawkeyes held A-10 Player of the Year Tyler Kalinowski to five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Iowa (22-11) will face the winner of No. 2 seed Gonzaga and No. 15 seed North Dakota State at 6:10 p.m. (CT) Sunday for a right to advance to the Sweet 16. The game will be televised on TNT.