IOWA CITY — When it comes to offensive tempo, Iowa’s performance pulsated to a perfect beat Tuesday night.
The Hawkeyes’ fast-break attack was efficient from the opening tip in an 84-75 win against Dayton (20-13) in the National Invitation Tournament. The Hawkeyes knocked down eight of their first nine shots. Iowa (18-16) sank 60 percent from the floor in the first half. The Hawkeyes had 14 assists on their first 18 baskets.
It was a symphony in motion led by Iowa’s conductor, Bryce Cartwright.
“I was trying to get everybody involved,” Cartwright said. “Everybody in the crowd was happy. Everybody scored, everybody was happy and we all fed off of it. I think it was conducive to us winning.”
Cartwright, a senior, was at his best Tuesday night, dishing 11 assists. That broke the school record for most assists in an NIT game, which was held by Andre Woolridge. Cartwright also had only two turnovers to go with five points in 35 minutes.
Two of Cartwright’s early assists came directly on alley oop passes near the rim to freshman forward Aaron White, who scored a career-best 25 points.
“I was just trying to find the holes in the defense,” Cartwright said. “Apparently Whitey likes the easy buckets so he was running. If he’s running like that, I’m going to reward him. He can count on how many he had or whatnot, but that’s his reward. We want to score and get easy buckets so he’s going to run.”
Cartwright kept the ball moving regardless of his teammates’ positioning. He hooked up Melsahn Basabe for a reverse dunk. Later he found Zach McCabe open for a 3-pointer and then a jumper.
“We drove the ball, we were able to play in the half-court, we were play full-court,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “That’s when it’s fun. We had a number of different people contributing.”
Iowa’s transition offense was too much for Dayton to slow down, let alone stop.
“Their pace and the way that they ran was on us, quick,” Dayton Coach Archie Miller said. “If we did not get the offensive rebound, we were behind the ball and we needed transition defense to absorb some of those, and we didn’t. I thought they hurt us as much as any team that we have played all season in transition.”
Cartwright had seven assists in the first half, and four more in the second. He did not have a turnover after halftime. Cartwright scored four of his points in the last 5 minutes, one on a jumper and then other on the game-closing free throws.
McCaffery was pleased because Cartwright faced off largely against Kevin Dillard.
“Eleven (assists) and two (turnovers) against a tremendous player, two big free throws and a hoop late? (Cartwright) was awesome.”
Iowa advances to the NIT’s second round and travels to Oregon (23-9). The game is set for 4 p.m. Sunday.
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