Gonzaga Grounds Hawkeyes in Seattle

Iowa's season came to a crash landing in Seattle Sunday night when second-seeded Gonzaga ganged up on the Hawkeyes in a 87-68 win. The loss came with a message of senior Gabe Olaseni to teammate, Adam Woodbury, a junior. HI Publisher Rob Howe tells the story.

Box Score

SEATTLE - As the seconds ticked away on his Iowa career Sunday night, Gabe Olaseni delivered an important message to teammate Adam Woodbury as they sat on the bench.

"I told him not to forget this feeling. Let it fuel you like it did last year," Olaseni said.

Teams lose. Some get run over like the Hawkeyes did here at Key Arena. Second-seeded Gonzaga started fast and slowed down very little in a dominating, 87-68, victory against No. 7 Iowa in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32.

It's how you respond in defeat that matters, Olaseni was saying to Woodbury. He and his fellow seniors, Aaron White, Josh Oglesby and Kyle Denning, pushed the program up the hill for the last four years. From NIT second-round to NIT title game to NCAA first round to winning the school's first Big Dance game in 14 years Friday against Davidson.

The Hawkeyes (22-12) won 10 games the season before these seniors arrived. They finished among the Top 32 in the land.

Olaseni wanted Woodbury, a junior, to use the awful feeling of elimination to carry the baton beyond where he and his class took it. Iowa was expected to return six of nine of the players in its rotation next year.

"They bring back a lot of great guys and they have a great class of guys coming in, so I'll be watching. Hopefully I can come back for a home game," Olaseni said.

White ended his illustrious Iowa career with 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting from the floor. The Strongsville, Ohio native was limited to one rebound, 6.5 below his team-leading average. Gonzaga's impressive height and length affected most of the Hawkeyes.

Junior Jarrod Uthoff paced Iowa in points (20) and rebounds (8). Classmate Anthony Clemmons came off the bench to score 10 (3-4 on threes).

Gonzaga (34-2) never trailed. The West Coast Conference champs diced up the Hawkeye defense with 20 assists on 32 baskets. They hit 10 of 16 three-point attempts.

Clemmons said the defensive game plan was to take away the Bulldogs productive inside game. Unfortunately, when the Iowa guards helped down to the post, Gonzaga drilled treys before they could recover to the perimeter.

Kentucky transfer, Kyle Wiltjer, netted a game-high 24 points for the winners. The junior connected on 10 of 12 shots (4-6 threes). He got the ball rolling with a deep trey for which White blamed himself.

"It started on the first play. I was late on the screen and Wiltjer popped out and hit a three. It was deep but he hit it. We knew he had that range," White said. "As the game went on (from there), they were just comfortable, a little too comfortable for our liking. We should have been better on defense."

The Bulldogs knocked down four of their first five three-point tries. That opened up penetration to the basket and passes to the interior.

"We wanted to establish our defense in the post. We didn't want to give them too much in the post," Clemmons said. "You have to give them credit, though. They made shot after shot after shot. When you're shooting that high of a percentage on three-pointers and you have to (guard) the inside, that's tough to beat."

Gonzaga's offensive effectiveness energized it on defense. In an attempt to keep pace, the Hawkeyes rushed things when they had the ball leading to a disastrous combination.

"We wanted to make something happen and they were making all their shots," Uthoff said. "I forced up a couple of shots. Pete (Jok) probably did. We were just trying to make shots for our team you know, make something happen."

Iowa's deficit mounted. A Gary Bell Jr. triple late in the first half sent the Bulldogs into halftime with a 17-point lead.

The Hawkeyes, as they had in winning seven of eight games coming into Sunday, maintained strong effort out of the intermission. They trimmed the Gonzaga lead to 11 on four different occasions in the first nine minutes of the second half but could never get it to single digits.

"We lost the game in the first half," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "We got down 17 and it's hard to come back against a team of this caliber in this atmosphere. We had plenty of chances to get stops in the first half. We didn't execute the way we wanted offensively, but it wasn't awful, in either half. It was our defense that wasn't as sharp as it needed to be."

Mike Gesell was the last Iowa player with a chance to get the deficit under 10. He misfired on a jumper with 10:20 on the clock. The Bulldogs then showed their teeth.

Gonzaga, located about four hours away in Spokane, took off on a 9-0 run from there. It led 69-49 with 6:37 on the clock and a crowd heavily in its favor began celebrating.

Woodbury sat with a towel over his head, facing his locker for a good 10 minutes after the Iowa locker room open up to the media Sunday night. He eventually rose to speak with reporters, red in his eyes. He carried Olaseni's words with him.

"To be where we are right now, we're very fortunate. Not everybody gets to experience this. It's tough to look at the whole picture right now and what we accomplished but we made some strides for our program and each other. We have a lot to be thankful for and proud of in all the things we've accomplished," Woodbury said.


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