The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes dominated in an 83-52 victory.
Veteran Davidson coach Bob McKillop and his Wildcats had a sinking feeling as soon as they saw their 10/7 pairing with Iowa flash on screen on Selection Sunday.
“When we saw the matchup last Sunday, we knew it would be a tremendously difficult matchup,” McKillop said Friday night. “And it certainly was.”
The Gonzaga fans that trickled into KeyArena before their team’s nightcap can identify with the sensation.
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The blue and red masses could only sit and watch as their potential round-of-32 opponent extended its second-half lead beyond 20 points, then 30. The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes and star forward Aaron White dominated from start to finish as Iowa ran out an 83-52 victor over the regular-season Atlantic 10 Conference champions on Friday evening at KeyArena.
Iowa (22-11) is exactly the type of major-conference team that can give smaller schools like Davidson fits. The Hawkeyes are big and physical, lanky and overwhelming.
Three of Iowa’s starters – 7-foot-1 center Adam Woodbury and 6-9 forwards Jarrod Uthoff and White – towered over Davidson’s tallest forward, 6-foot-7 Peyton Aldridge. The Hawkeyes ripped down 11 offensive rebounds in the first half.
The Davidson (24-8) offensive machine, which averaged nearly 80 points per game in the regular season, was discombobulated by Iowa’s rangy defense.
“It seemed like every shot we took, every pass we made, there was length there,” McKillop said. “I’ve never seen our guys as hesitant and tentative as we were tonight.”
The Wildcats shot just 33 percent from the floor and 21 percent from behind the three-point line.
Having leading scorer Tyler Kalinoski head to the bench with his third foul with 8:20 still to go in the first half didn’t help, especially once Iowa promptly ripped off a 16-4 run.
Iowa took a 38-29 lead into the break and White blew the game open shortly afterward. White, who finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, scored 11 straight points for Iowa, including a run-out dunk and a three-pointer from the wing.
Davidson rallied from 18 points down against LaSalle in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals for a buzzer-beating victory — one that, given its ultimate seed, likely saved its NCAA berth. But White’s scoring surge pushed the advantage to 19, and it only climbed upward from there.
“When he gets going like that, it becomes infectious to the rest of the team,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “When you’re playing with the energy level that he’s playing with, it’s what everybody else wants to do.”
With his team already leading by more than 20 points midway through the second half, White broke to the near block and caught a bounce pass in stride. In a single, fluid motion, the lanky senior forward rose above the overmatched Davidson front line and finished cleanly off the glass.
Simple, effective and unstoppable, it summarized Iowa’s performance.
“I’m not sure we can play much better than we played in that game,” McCaffery said afterward.
Gonzaga will certainly hope not.