Iowa and Villanova Vie for Sweet 16 Berth

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March 19, 2016

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It’s been 17 years since the University of Iowa men’s basketball team has advanced to the Sweet 16, but there is a chance that could change this Sunday.


After Friday’s thrilling first round overtime victory over Temple, 24th-ranked Iowa (22-10) returns to Barclay’s Center this Sunday for a second round bout with sixth-ranked Villanova (30-5), with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. And if history between the Hawkeyes and Wildcats points to anything, you can expect another tough, back-and-forth battle.

The last time these two programs met was in the title game of the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Villanova squeaked by with an 88-83 overtime victory in a game that saw eight lead changes.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright certainly hasn’t forgotten how physical that game was.

“It was a slugfest,” said Wright. “Great credit to Iowa’s strength staff because you look at the bodies of those guys from that game and their bodies now — Uthoff especially. He was a skinny, wiry kid. I think he got his head cut in that game. That was a really tough, physical game.”

Senior guard Mike Gesell expects Sunday’s game to be just as intense as the last meeting.

“Villanova is a team that’s going to battle you,” said Gesell, who had five assists and four points in Friday’s win over Temple. “It’s going to be a physical game. They’re a team that will never go away. They’re never out of a game because of the way they shoot the three. You have to have a concerted effort defensively for the entire 40 minutes.”

Villanova features a roster that includes four players who average double figures in scoring, led by junior guard Josh Hart at 15.3 points per game. The Wildcats also come into Sunday’s matchup as the second best free throw shooting team in the country at 77.7 percent. However, for UI head coach Fran McCaffery, it’s going to be Villanova’s defense that will be a deciding factor in Sundays game.

“Villanova distributes the ball and takes good shots as well as any team that I’ve scouted on film this year,” said McCaffery. “But I still think the defense in many ways can be their identity. They’re going to be in your space. They’re going to be switching it up into you and pressuring the pass, pressuring the ball, fronting the post, fighting the post.”

Villanova ranks 20th in the country in scoring defense and has held 14 of its 32 opponents to under 60 points this season, including Friday’s opening round opponent UNC Asheville, who the Wildcats stomped, 86-56.

Villanova senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono knows that it’s going to be tough to limit the Hawkeyes offensively.

“They can really score the ball,” said Arcidiacono who scored 14 points, bolstered by four three-pointers on Friday. “They have great size and great length. Clearly, Uthoff can go off at any moment, same with Jok, and they have Woodbury on the inside. I don’t think we’ve seen anyone in particular that has had the length that they’ve had and had the scorers that they’ve had.”

The Hawkeyes look to extend their season and keep their hopes for a national title alive when they meet the Wildcats on Sunday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Tipoff is slated for 11:10 a.m. (CT), with a trip to Louisville and the Sweet 16 on the line.

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