By Gregg Bell / Staff writer
SEATTLE -- Oh, yeah, size matters. Gonzaga may be about to find out just how much.
As tall as harvest-time corn, the seventh-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes didn’t defeat the diminutive Davidson Wildcats Friday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament as much as they overwhelmed them.
Aaron White, 6 feet 9 with the touch of a painter, drained jumpers for 26 points. Peter Jok, a 6-6 nightmare of a matchup at another wing, made consecutive 3-pointers for half of his 12 points. And Jarrod Uthoff, 6-9, smothered Davidson’s star with a decisive five-inch height advantage in an 83-52 runaway at packed, jazzed KeyArena.
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The Hawkeyes (22-11) won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since March 15, 2001, and this was their largest NCAA margin of victory ever. They had four NCAA losses in a row – until running past and towering over the dazed Wildcats as if they were still in high school.
“We’re really long. Our length really worked,” Jok said in a business-as-usual locker room for the third-place team in the thudding Big Ten. “That really bothered them.”
How much will it bother second-seeded Gonzaga in Sunday’s matchup for a place in the Sweet 16 -- assuming the Zags don't gag this double-digit lead over the final 23 minutes in the last of today's four NCAA games at rockin' KeyArena.
Iowa’s starting five goes 7 feet 1, 6-9, 6-9, and 6-6. Point guard Mike Gesell is 6-2 and looks like he stumbled into the wrong lineup.
“We use the strength to our advantage,” 7-1 Adam Woodbury (eight points, eight rebounds) said. “That’s the strength of our team.”
Sure, Gonzaga starts 6-10 Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and 7-1 Przemek Karnowski. But those two aren’t going to be going outside to guard Iowa’s wings. Or if they are, Sunday’s going to be worse for the Zags than Friday was for Davidson.
Gonzaga’s backcourt? Yes, Gary Bell Jr. is the West Coast Conference defensive player of the year. But he’s 6-2. Byron Wesley is 6-4.
But if Kevin Pangos is his listed 6-2, Zags coach Mark Few is 7 feet tall.
The Hawkeyes also have a 6-10 senior sixth man, Gabriel Olaseni. Another off the bench is Josh Oglesby. He’s 6-5, another guard. Eight Iowans played at least 15 minutes. None were shorter than 6-2.
White is their All-Big Ten leading scorer. He’s the only player in the nation to average 16-plus points and seven-plus rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line. Though 6-9 he spent much of Friday on the wing, feeding entry passes into Woodbury.
White had just three baskets over the game’s first 26 minutes, yet Iowa led by double digits. That was after Uthoff and swarms of huge Hawkeyes went at Davidson’s Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year. Tyler Kalinoski got three fouls called on him after he had played just 8 minutes.
He averaged 17 points this season. He was a no-show with five against Iowa.
Iowa has played Gonzaga twice – in 1984 in Iowa City and ’85 in Spokane. The Hawkeyes won each by 22 and 20 points. That was in the Zags’ last season with the forgotten Jay Hillock as coach and first with turnaround architect Dan Fitzgerald.
Gonzaga will be 33-2 assuming it finishes off early-hot, then-Upper Plains-cold North Dakota State, the region’s 15 seed. The Zags are on the cusp of their familiar NCAA tournament crossroads, the round of 32.
Few’s shorter men will need an answer for Iowa’s size to extend their program’s 17th consecutive NCAA tournament to a second weekend.