SEATTLE, WA – #7 Iowa (22-11) proved too much for #10 Davidson (24-8) in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, using a series of large runs to take the game 83-52. Davidson shot 33.3% from the floor and made only 6-28 from deep while being outrebounded 46-30. Iowa, who had a size advantage of at least three inches at every position, were relentless on the day. It ends a remarkable season for the Wildcats, who earned the first at-large birth in school history.
“They played a superb game,” Coach Bob McKillop said of Iowa after the game, “When we saw the matchup last Sunday, we knew it would be a tremendous challenge for us and it certainly was. The combination of length and efficiency really bothered us. It put them in such a terrific position to win this game.”
Out of the break down nine, Davidson focused on attacking the rim. Buckets from Jordan Barham and Jack Gibbs had the lead down to six, but Iowa countered with a 18-3 run to take a 62-41 lead with just under 11 to play on a nice play by Aaron White. And from there, it was smooth sailing for the Hawkeyes, who were at complete ease all game. As Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said post-game, “I’m not sure we can play much better than we played in this game.”
Every time Davidson hit a shot, or strung together a couple of good possessions, Iowa had an answer. The Hawkeyes were composed throughout, and never wavered from their approach to methodically wear Davidson down with their large size advantage. And where the Hawkeyes had every answer, Davidson had none for Iowa’s star forward White.
White, an All-Big 10 first-teamer, who was efficient if unspectacular in the first half, fired on all cylinders in the second half. He finished with 26 points on 11-14 shooting. But in the second half, he was 8-9 from the floor for 17 points. He also chipped in 6 rebounds.
“Looking at the roster size before the game I knew I had a size advantage to whoever I was guarding,” White told reporters in the postgame press-conference. “I got to give credit to my teammates and also Coach McCaffery for running a lot of stuff for me to get me in position to score. But there was a stretch there where I was just feeling confident, feeling good with my shot – with my hook shot – and I was finishing around the basket.”
Davidson’s star Tyler Kalinoski on the other hand, himself Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, struggled to get anything going after sitting much of the first half with three fouls. He finished with just 5 points on 2-9 shooting, unable to get good looks from deep due to Iowa’s ability to put someone much bigger on him. And whenever he looked to drive, there was adequate help nearby. It is a real shame that in his final game in a Wildcat uniform, he wasn’t able to have the sort of game that defined his stellar career.
“It seemed like every shot we took, every pass we made, there was length there,” Coach Bob McKillop said after the game. “I’ve never seen our guys as tentative and as hesitant as they were. We moved the ball around the arc a lot and did not go inside out. We didn’t attack and deflate with dribble penetration, which is normally a staple of what we do to get our shooters open.”
Jack Gibbs also struggled to find any sort of rhythm. Pushed so far beyond the line for many of his three-point attempts, this was never a matchup in the smaller guard’s favor. Gibbs was Davidson’s joint leading scorer with 14 points, but didn’t have a great game, shooting only 2-9 from deep and committing 5 turnovers. He will look to use the offseason to get back to where he was in January pre-knee injury, as since his return, he hasn’t been quite the same on either end.
Sullivan’s task was simply too much. With 6’6″ Peter Jok draped on him much of the game, he wasn’t able to get in a shooting grove. Iowa did an effective job of running him off the line, and forced many contested twos in the lane. He was only 1-9 inside the arc.
Peyton Aldridge also was joint leading scorer with 14 points, hitting his jump shot more than he has been in recent weeks, but he was forced into a role defensively that he was not cut out for, and was a team-worst -33 in +/-. Just a freshman, he has big things ahead, but pairing him with a bigger center going forward will be crucial to what Aldridge can do for this team.
Only Andrew McAuliffe’s play on the block could slow down the Iowa bigs. Of all the Wildcats to get more than two minutes in the half, he was the only player with a positive +/- in the first half. He didn’t let them get anything easy near the paint, partially solidifying a Davidson front court that was completely overmatched without him in the game. And offensively, while not a three point threat, he was always around the basket demanding attention when a shot went up. However, when he had to take a breather, the Wildcats got manhandled on the glass. And by the end of the first half and throughout the second, he wasn’t nearly as effective having played so many minutes early.
Iowa’s length really bothered Davidson from the game’s opening couple minutes, as the ‘Cats had turnovers on three of their first four possessions. But before the first media timeout, the Wildcats had used an 8-0 run to lead 8-5. However, as Davidson tried to find a rhythm, fouls piled up as Iowa used their size to their advantage. Kalinoski picked up a cheap third foul not a minute after checking back into the game with 8:20 to play.
With Kalinoski on the bench for the majority of the first half with those fouls, Iowa used an 18-4 run to take a 15 point lead with 4:17 to play in the half. They frustrated Davidson with their ever-changing defenses, and got second-chance after second-chance with their enormous size advantage. Davidson used a late run to cut it to nine at the break, but it was all Iowa in the half.
This loss will hurt for a long time, but Davidson should be proud of everything they’ve accomplished this year. With expectations incredibly low, this team won an Atlantic 10 title in their first year in the league. Stop and think about that for another second. It’s truly remarkable.
“It’s hard to look at now, I think just because I’m so disappointed with how Tyler and all our seniors had to go out,” Brian Sullivan remarked on the season as a whole, “But I think after some time I’ll be able to appreciate what we did just being the first ever at large team at Davidson. Obviously the expectations outside of the locker room were not very high and I learned a lot over the course of this season just in the belief of ourselves and what we’re capable of. Obviously I don’t feel that right now, but I think big picture it’s a tremendous year for us.”
Losing only Tyler Kalinoski and Ali Mackay, Davidson should be poised for another great campaign next year, especially with center Jake Belford returning from an injury that sidelined him since December. Bob McKillop is only four wins away from 500 in his career, so that likely win is something to look forward to next November.
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