COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Luka Garza scored 20 points, Jordan Bohannon made a three-point play during Iowa’s closing surge, and the 10th-seeded Hawkeyes kept the Big Ten perfect in the NCAA Tournament by rallying for a 79-72 victory over No. 7 seed Cincinnati on Friday.
Make it 6-0 for the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes (23-11) got their first NCAA Tournament win in four years despite what amounted to a home crowd for the Bearcats, who couldn’t overcome a subpar game by Jarron Cumberland.
Bohannon’s big play with 1:07 left put Iowa up 73-64. Then Bohannon, who has missed only nine free throws all season, made one of two with 18 seconds left to help finish off another Big Ten win.
The league sent eight teams into the field, the most in its history, and five of them won their opening games Thursday. Iowa was the first of three Big Ten teams playing Friday, along with Ohio State and Wisconsin.
For Cincinnati (28-7), it was another early flameout. The Bearcats haven’t made it past the opening weekend for seven straight years.
Point guard Justin Jenifer score a career-high 19 points for Cincinnati, keeping the Bearcats in the game despite a subpar game from Cumberland. The American Athletic Conference’s player of the year went only 3 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points.
Cincinnati has been an NCAA Tournament regular, but hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2012. As a No. 2 seed last year, the Bearcats blew 22-point lead with 11 minutes left and lost to Nevada, matching the second-biggest meltdown in NCAA Tournament history.
And now they have a disappointing two-hour drive down Interstate 71 to get back home.
Iowa was simply better with everything on the line.
The Hawkeyes were second in the league in scoring but prone to getting blown out when their shots weren’t falling. They had three losses of at least 20 points this season.
This one started down that path, too. The Hawkeyes missed eight of their first 10 shots, three of them from beneath the basket, and had four turnovers as Cincinnati pulled ahead 18-5. Cumberland had a layup and two assists during the spurt.
Joe Wieskamp had a driving layup and a 3-pointer that helped the Hawkeyes close to 36-31 at the half. Bohannon’s long 3 — his only basket beyond the arc — gave Iowa a lead early in the second half, but Cumberland matched with his first 3-pointer to put Cincinnati ahead, setting a back-and-forth pace.
Wieskamp hit another 3-pointer during an 11-2 surge that put the Hawkeyes ahead to stay. He finished with 19 points.
Iowa had arguably its biggest win under coach Fran McCaffery, topping an already successful season. The Hawkeyes have improved their win total from last year by nine games.
Cincinnati has dominated the AAC overall, but the Bearcats haven’t been able to make much of a dent in the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa faces the winner of the later game between second-seeded Tennessee and Colgate.
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