No. 23 Iowa rolls past UTEP, 89-53

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Zach McCabe had a dunk.

Let that serve as the proof that everything was working for No. 23 Iowa.

Aaron White scored 17 points, McCabe added 14 – including the first dunk of the senior forward’s collegiate career – and the Hawkeyes rolled into the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, easily beating Texas-El Paso 89-53 on Friday night.

“That was my first one,” McCabe said. “Took a long time.”

That it did. Earning a trip to the tournament title game, that took far less time.

After needing overtime to beat Xavier in the quarterfinals, Iowa took care of this one early. A 13-0 run in the opening minutes put the Hawkeyes in control, and Iowa’s first 20-point lead came a mere 14 minutes into the contest.

“I’d be more apt to look at the fact that we had 22 assists on 31 field goals,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “To me, the way we distributed the ball, that shows you your transition game is working because guys are finishing, whether it’s Zach’s dunk or someone else.”

Peter Jok scored 14 and Melsahn Basabe finished with 10 for the Hawkeyes (7-0), who have already won five times this season by at least 31 points. Iowa shot 53 percent and will meet Villanova for the tournament title tonight.

McCaffery said it’s a great opportunity for the Hawkeyes to be tested early.

“Very few times in your life you get to play for a championship,” McCaffery said. “I won’t let that go unnoticed to our guys. … We’re going to be playing a team with an incredible national reputation. If we aspire to be consistently among that group, then we have to play well against those teams and ultimately win some of those games.”

Julian Washburn scored 13 for UTEP (4-3), which will play in the third-place game Saturday. No other Miner finished with more than seven.

“Our inadequacies were obvious to even the casual basketball observer,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We didn’t get back on defense. You shoot the kind of percentage they shoot, you’re shooting open shots, layups, uncontested shots, rebound-putback baskets. And we had deficiencies in rebounding the ball. I think we’ve been outrebounded by 45 boards, something like that, in two nights.”

It was only the fifth time that the Miners lost by more than 20 points since Floyd took over as coach before the 2010-11 season. UTEP’s worst loss under Floyd had been 73-49 to Vanderbilt at the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Nov. 25, 2012.

The Miners’ low for points this season had been 67 – and that was in a blowout win. The 89 points matched the second-most allowed by UTEP since Floyd took over; the most was 100, and that was in a triple-overtime game.

“This is an embarrassing loss,” UTEP’s Jake Flaggert said. “It’s going to motivate us.”

Jarrod Uthoff grabbed 10 rebounds and Mike Gesell handed out seven assists for Iowa. White shot 5 for 6 from the field on his way to the 17 points, making all seven of his free throws.

The difference from Thursday to Friday could not have been more pronounced for the Hawkeyes, who never led in regulation on Thursday night against Xavier before finding a way to win in overtime.

Iowa rallied from 15 points down with 15 minutes left in that game. This time, the Hawkeyes rallied again … from one point down with 38 minutes left, that is. Everything went their way right from the get-go, and by the time the Hawkeyes committed their first turnover, they already had 22 points and the game well in hand.

That first 13-0 run was just the harbinger of what awaited UTEP. The Miners also were on the short end of 14-4 and 12-2 spurts – and they, just like the 13-0 burst, were all in the first half alone.

Iowa scored 69 points in regulation on Thursday – and was at 69 points with 11:34 remaining on Friday.

So good was Iowa’s offense that it didn’t even need a big scoring effort from standout Devyn Marble, who scored 30 points before leaving Thursday’s game with a nasty leg cramp. Marble had seven on Friday, shooting just 2 for 6 on the night after seeing box-and-one and triangle-and-two defenses.

UTEP didn’t use them for long, since they didn’t work. Marble forced nothing against those defenses and had six assists in the first half, twice as many as any UTEP player had in the entire game.