Alabama, 3-0, advances to the finals with the win. The championship game is Monday at 7:30 p.m. CT at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center. The game will be telecast, live, on Fox Sports Net. Alabama will play Xavier, the winner of Sunday night's semifinal match up against Villanova. Iowa, 2-1, will play Villanova for third place on Monday.
Alonzo Gee led Alabama with 21 points, making 8 of 13 shots from the field and 5 of 7 at the free throw line. Ron Steele, who made 7 of 11 shots from the field including 4 of 5 from three-point range, scored 18 points and made six assists. He continues to play injured, hampered by tendonitis in his right knee, although he played 38 minutes against Iowa. Richard Hendrix made 6 of 7 shots from the field and ended the game with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Jermareo Davidson had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"I thought Alonzo played great. I was proud for him, and, I tell you, our whole team," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried. "Let's start out with Jermareo though. What a lift he gives our team emotionally. We're just much more confident as a basketball team with him in there. I was really proud of him. I did not anticipate playing him that many minutes at all, but he said he was fresh. We'll see how he feels tomorrow (Monday). He played well.
"Prior to us leaving on Wednesday morning when we left, they (his teammates) spent a lot of time with him. He's got great teammates. We've got an exceptional group of young men on this team, and when somebody goes through something hard, it's nice to have that kind of family away from your real family that can be there for you. When he got off the plane yesterday, you could tell with everybody, there was just a little bit more energy right off the bat. They have a lot of confidence in him. He played great. He stepped up and made some big plays. He made a huge three-pointer on the out of bounds play down there. He rebounded the ball well, defensively, offensively had a great, great game today."
Returning to Alabama's lineup was its senior All-Southeastern Conference center. Davidson joined the team in St. Thomas on Saturday, in time to practice Saturday evening with the team. The 6-foot-10 John R. Wooden preseason candidate was a passenger in an automobile accident that claimed the life of his girlfriend and missed Friday's opening round game against Middle Tennessee in order to attend her funeral.
His teammates encouraged the coaches to start Davidson in the game, and he ended up playing 36 minutes and getting his 19th career double double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"It was great to be back on the floor," said Davidson whose game against Iowa also included four assists, four blocks, and, among his buckets made, a three-point shot from the left corner. "I was looking forward to getting back to my team, just getting back into the rhythm of everything."
Gottfried said he was pleased with his entire group's effort on the floor Sunday, unlike the performance he saw in Friday night's win against Middle Tennessee. "Two or three things jump out. One is our ability to guard," said Gottfried of Alabama's performance against Iowa. "I thought we really did a good job. Our zone helped us. We're long in our zone and we're quick in our zone and that helped us tonight. I thought we really covered well. And then I thought offensively outside of the turnovers we really executed some offense and got great looks at the basket, made some great passes to one another; played very well together, and I thought those were really good things for us."
Iowa struck first, scoring first in the game with a three-point shot made by Tony Freeman with 19:38, only to be followed 15 seconds later by a dunk from Alabama's Richard Hendrix on Davidson's first assist of the game. It was a first half that saw the lead change seven times. Alabama led by as many as four in the first half on a dunk by Gee with 3:24 remaining and Iowa by as many as six in the first half, that coming at the 17:09 mark.
"It was a pretty slow start at the beginning," said Davidson. "We had to pick up our defensive intensity. I think Iowa is a pretty good team."
Alabama led 32-31 at the break, powered by a Gee-boosted flourish that started with a dunk he made on an assist from his roommate Steele with 5:01 remaining to put Alabama in the lead 23-22. He then made two free throws at the 4:10 mark, a steal and a race down the floor for a dunk with 3:43 left followed the very next play by another steal and dunk at the 3:24 mark. Gee scored eight of his points, all of Alabama's scoring during that time span, between 5:01 and 3:24 in the first half.
"Coach had told us to run the floor and just get in transition. That's easy buckets," said Gee. "Iowa is a great team. They have some really good players on their team. It was a good game. We both gave effort. We both played hard."
Alabama opened the second half on a run where it made seven of seven shots attempted, going from the opening of the second half to the 14:04 mark before it missed its first shot, a three-point attempt from Mykal Riley.
The Crimson Tide shot 51% for the game, making 26 of 51 from the field, 5 of 16 from three-point range, and 15 of 22 free throws. It outrebounded Iowa 39-31, led by 11 from Davidson, seven from Hendrix, six from Gee and five off the bench from Riley.
Iowa was led by 19 from forward Tyler Smith who made 7 of 13 from the field. Tony Freeman had 16 points and Seth Gorney had 10 for the Hawkeyes who shot 37.5%, making 24 of 64 from the field and only 7 of 30 from three-point range. It made 5 of 6 free throws, all from Smith who was 5 of 6 at the line.
"We're really glad to have Jermareo back," said Gee. "Just to have his presence on the court, talking with him on the court, playing with him, it was a good game, good to have him back. We're all pretty close. We love each other. We're all together every day. We're family. We're all like brothers. So we were glad to have him back."