IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa's scoring plays were the ones that
drew cheers from the crowd. Coach Steve Alford chose to applaud the
play at the other end.
Alford saluted his team's defense after No. 23 Iowa rolled past
winless Centenary 88-53 Friday night in the first round of the
Hawkeye Challenge. Iowa held Centenary to 32 percent shooting and
made 12 steals, five by Pierre Pierce.
"I was real impressed with the way we guarded," Alford said.
"To be honest, that's what we focused on. There was 40 minutes of
pretty good, solid defense and that's important for us."
There was plenty of offense, too. Pierce scored 19 points to
lead the Hawkeyes (5-1), who continued to dominate in their own
tournament, and Alford used all 13 players. Twelve scored and seven
had at least seven points.
With Alford constantly shuttling players in and out, Iowa wasn't
always as sharp as it has been at times this season. But Centenary
(0-4) was never a threat after the first 11 minutes and Iowa blew
the game open with a 30-8 burst in the second half.
"We just got up in them and our help defense was pretty good,"
Iowa's Jeff Horner said. "The big guys are getting in there
helping and the guards are out there denying. That's what we
Greg Brunner added 14 points for Iowa on 6-for-7 shooting,
including a crowd-pleasing dunk during the big run. Horner had nine
points and seven assists, while Doug Thomas contributed eight
points and seven rebounds.
Iowa, now 44-1 in this tournament, will try for its 22nd
championship in 23 years against UNC-Greensboro on Saturday night.
Greensboro spoiled a potential matchup between the Hawkeyes and
former Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy with a 79-78 victory over
Eustachy, in his first season at Southern Miss, spent five years
as Iowa State's coach.
Chad Maclies led Centenary with 21 points, 15 in the second
half. Tyrone Tillman scored 12.
"In a game where you know you have to win to get to the
championship game of your own tournament, I thought our three
captains were very unselfish and did a lot of good things," Alford
said. "They took high-percentage shots all night long."
He was referring to Pierce, Brunner and Horner. Pierce was
8-for-13 from the field and Horner 3-for-5. The nine points were a
season-low for Horner, but Alford didn't mind.
"He really distributed the ball and got everybody involved,"
the Iowa coach said. "That's good to see."
Centenary, which has played all of its games so far on the road,
hung with the Hawkeyes for a while. Three 3-point baskets kept the
Gents close and they tied it at 17 on Curtis Tillman's fadeaway
jumper midway through the first half.
Then Iowa took off. Adam Haluska hit two 3-pointers and Pierce
made a layup in a 10-0 run. Later, Pierce slipped under the basket
for a reverse layup on a pass from Horner and hit a fadeaway in the
lane as the Hawkeyes ran off six straight points to make it 38-24
late in the half.
Then, with Centenary wearing down, Iowa turned the game into a
rout, stretching a 49-36 lead to 79-44 by doing pretty much
whatever it wanted, whether it was running fast breaks, dunking or
hitting jump shots.
Freshman Carlton Reed drew a roar when he drove the baseline for
a twisting reverse layup that made it 71-42, and Brunner brought
the crowd to its feet when he caught a lob from Horner and jammed
the ball through the basket with both hands.
Reed later hit a 3-pointer from the left corner and Thomas
dunked on a lob from Mike Henderson, making it 83-48.
"We wanted to come out and establish the home court and that's
what we did," Horner said.