Hawkeyes storm back from early hole to thump Cincinnati in NCAA Tournament opener

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Iowa's latest journey into the NCAA men's basketball tournament is going to last awhile.

Joe Wieskamp made sure of that. So did Jordan Bohannon. Ditto Luka Garza.

The Hawkeyes looked nervous at tipoff but were in complete control by the end Friday, erasing a 13-point deficit to dump seventh-seeded Cincinnati, 79-72, in a first-round game at Nationwide Arena.

The 10 seed Hawkeyes (23-11) will face the winner of the Tennessee-Colgate game here Sunday. They are looking for their first Sweet 16 appearance in 20 years.

Garza led Iowa with 20 points. Wieskamp added 19, including two immaculate 3-pointers late after which he turned and smiles at the Hawkeye fans in the front row before retreating downcourt. Bohannon scored 13 points, most of them, improbably, by converting drives to the basket.

All three were playing in their first-ever NCAA Tournament game. It may have showed early, but it certainly didn't late.

More from Iowa's upset of Cincinnati:

Hawkeyes guard Joe Wieskamp (10) looks to move down the court defended by Cincinnati Bearcats guard Keith Williams (2) in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 22, 2019.

Iowa was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in three years, Cincinnati its ninth in a row.

That was evident when the Bearcats used a 14-0 run to take an 18-5 lead, forcing Hawkeye forward Tyler Cook to the bench with two fouls in the process. Only Isaiah Moss had scored for Iowa in the opening 8 minutes. There had been four turnovers.

But center Garza started finding success inside. Freshman forward Wieskamp got hot from the 3-point arc and converted a pair of drives. Iowa went to its 1-2-2 trapping press and 3-2 zone defense. It wasn’t perfect — Cincinnati had its way on the offensive glass — but it allowed the Hawkeyes to climb from the depths.

Iowa point guard Bohannon, just 6-foot-1, made his first basket of the game with 0.5 seconds left in the first half on a stepback jumper and that cut the Bearcats’ lead to 36-31. That felt like a major victory for a Hawkeye team that looked shaky and on the verge of getting blown out at the outset.

Garza and Wieskamp each had 10 points in the opening half. The Hawkeyes limited Cincinnati star Jarron Cumberland to four.

Iowa made a strong charge to open the second half, making four of five shots in one stretch. A Bohannon 3-pointer gave the Hawkeyes their first lead at 40-39. Cincinnati ran off five straight points to take the lead back.

The next time Iowa earned an advantage, it was from a much more unlikely source. Backup point guard Connor McCaffery, battling an illness and unavailable for pregame warmups, calmly stepped into a 3-pointer from the right elbow and put Iowa on top 53-52. McCaffery was 5-for-27 from the arc entering play.

Nicholas Baer made a 3-pointer to put Iowa ahead 62-59. Cincinnati tied the score.

Garza powered in for a layup to restore a 64-62 Hawkeye edge. That one held up. Wieskamp added to it. So did Bohannon.

Iowa has won its past three opening-round games in this event. But it has fallen to a 2 seed in the second round the last two times.

That's the recent history this group of Hawkeyes will be looking to change.