Brown: Hawkeyes' end the cost of letting Gonzaga settle in
SEATTLE – The first sign of trouble came just 30 seconds into Sunday's game, when Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer rose up and buried a 3-pointer.
"I was late on a screen," Iowa's Aaron White said. "It was deep, but he hit it. And as the game went on, they were just comfortable. A little too comfortable for our liking."
Gonzaga's offense wasted no time finding its comfort zone and rolled into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with an 87-68 victory over the Hawkeyes at KeyArena.
With point guard Kevin Pangos running the show like a modern-day John Stockton, Gonzaga used a 16-4 run midway through the first half to build a double-digit lead, and Iowa could never get traction again.
"Sometimes you've got to take your hat off to them. They played well," White said. "We didn't do the things necessary to turn the game in our favor."
Gonzaga entered play Sunday leading the nation in field-goal percentage at .524. And improved on that.
The Bulldogs shot 61.5 percent from the field, made 10 of their 16 3-pointers and had 20 assists on 32 field goals. No team had shot better than 53.1 percent against Iowa all season. Gonzaga's 46-29 halftime lead represented the most points the Hawkeyes surrendered in the first half all year
If Gonzaga wasn't swishing jumpers, it was pounding it inside to the formidable tandem of post players Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis, who had 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Iowa's posts, Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni, both fouled out trying to stop them.
Gonzaga had a 34-22 rebounding edge. Only Wisconsin's 14-board advantage on the glass in a Jan. 20 game was more one-sided.
Wiltjer was 10-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-6 shooting from 3. Pangos had an efficient 16 points.
"We obviously got down into a hole, and you don't want to do that," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "They started getting comfortable shooting the ball, and that was unfortunate."
There was a glimmer of hope when Iowa trimmed the deficit to 11 points less than 3 minutes into the second half. But two Hawkeye possessions and two turnovers later, Pangos nailed a 3. Later, Iowa was within 11 at 60-49 and just under 11 minutes remaining. But Mike Gesell couldn't get a jumper to go down, and Gonzaga went on a 9-0 run to remove all doubt.
"We felt if we could have gotten it to single digits, that might have been something that cooled them off as much as our defensive intensity," McCaffery said. "It's easy to shoot when you're up 15."
Iowa finished the season 22-12 and won an NCAA game for the first time in 14 seasons. That's a sign that McCaffery's program has traction. It was a bittersweet farewell for seniors White, Olaseni and Josh Oglesby.
It was Devyn Marble's team last season, when Iowa made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years. White took over that role this season.
"I think people will look back and remember him as one of the all-time greats," Gesell said.
Jarrod Uthoff, who led Iowa with 20 points Sunday, looks poised to take over the role of go-to guy in 2015-16.
White, who had 19 points, came to Iowa lightly recruited. He leaves as the school's No. 2 scorer and No. 3 rebounder of all-time. And the only player to lead the team in rebounding four straight seasons.
"I'm just so thankful for the opportunity," White said.