Iowa led by only seven at the half

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Jeff Horner's numbers defy logic. At least that's the way it seems to Western Carolina coach Steve Shurina.

Shurina was amazed when he looked at the statistics Horner has put up for Iowa (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP), and he remained so after watching the junior guard in person Saturday night.

Horner scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and almost single-handedly broke the game open for the Hawkeyes in an 88-75 victory.

"He's a statistical anomaly," Shurina said. "He's shooting over 50 percent from 3-point range, his assist-to-turnover ratio is unbelievable and he's averaging six rebounds -- for a point guard. He made some incredible shots, some deep shots tonight."

Horner finished 7-for-10 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, had 10 assists and committed just one turnover. And when Iowa finally pulled away, Horner was the one who made it happen.

Iowa (9-1) led by only seven after a sloppy first half against a team that had lost its four previous games to power conference opponents by an average of 20 points. Western Carolina (5-7) then kept hanging around in the second half and trailed 43-31 after Kyle Greathouse's 3-pointer.

Then Horner took over, scoring 15 of the Hawkeyes' next 18 points and feeding Alex Thompson for a dunk, the only other Iowa basket in that stretch.

"He was a little frustrated in the first half," Iowa coach Steve Alford said. "Then he responded and gave us what he does every day, and that includes practice. He put us on his shoulders there and did a great job."

Horner made three 3-pointers during his run, the last from about 6 feet behind the arc. But the shot that drew the biggest cheer came when he drove in from the right side for a reverse layup, flipped the ball back over his head and tumbled to the floor as the ball dropped through the basket, making it 59-40.

"I was hoping for a foul," Horner said with a sheepish grin. "I just threw it up there, turned around and it went in. Thank God it did. Otherwise I might have been sitting on the bench next to coach."

Two free throws by Horner and Thompson's follow shot stretched the lead to 63-40 and Western Carolina never threatened again despite making 10-of-16 3-point shots in the second half.

Pierre Pierce led Iowa with 21 points, 13 in the first half, while Greg Brunner had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Pierce, Horner and Brunner are Iowa's captains and Alford was pleased with how they responded after a poor finish to the first half.

"Our captains got us off to a great start and then they were really bad for about 10 minutes," Alford said.

David Berghoefer led Western Carolina with 18 points. Corey Muirhead and Trey Hopkins each scored 13 for the Catamounts, who committed 24 turnovers.

Both teams were coming off layoffs of more than a week and it showed.

Western Carolina made only one of its first 13 shots while falling behind 22-3 and had eight turnovers during that time. The Catamounts missed layups, putbacks and medium-range jumpers and
Antonio Russell airballed a 3-point shot from the top of the key.

Iowa had some flashy plays early, including dunks by Pierce, Brunner and Erek Hansen, but the Hawkeyes had plenty of ragged moments as well. They fumbled passes, threw the ball away and Pierce put up an airball from the right corner.

That inconsistency, and some lackluster defense, enabled Western Carolina to get back in it. The Catamounts trailed just 30-21 when Berghoefer soared in for a breakaway dunk, and they cut the lead to 32-25 just before the halftime buzzer on Hopkins' runner in the lane.

"I'm disappointed that we got a team down that badly and couldn't put them away," said Alford, who also lamented his team's 18-for-33 free throw shooting.

"I'm upset at our offense," he said. "But if you shoot 75 percent in this game at the free-throw line, you score 100 points and your offense is brilliant then."