IOWA CITY — Iowa turned a hopeless first-half situation into a borderline second-half miracle last night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Trailing by 23 points with less than two seconds before halftime, the Hawkeyes rallied with energy on defense and crisp offensive execution to blow past Gardner-Webb 65-56. Iowa (4-0) outscored the Runnin’ Bulldogs (2-3) 47-18 in the second half after going into halftime down 38-18.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery didn’t give Iowa a tongue-lashing like most expected. Instead it was a calculated approach that tapped into each player’s strengths as they tried to get back into the game.
“I felt like we were tight,” McCaffery said. “We were doubting ourselves a little bit. I thought we weren’t making plays, and we weren’t running our break. We weren’t executing on offense. We were breaking down on defense. All the stuff we knew we had to do, we didn’t do. So we just challenged them to a man.
“I didn’t speak to them any louder than I’m speaking to you right now. I said, This is what we need to. We broke it down on offense; we broke it down on defense; we broke down the press, personnel, and let’s go do it.”
Iowa scored on five of its first six second-half possessions and held Gardner-Webb scoreless for more than five minutes. Iowa forward Aaron White scored six points on three consecutive possessions to cut Iowa’s deficit to 38-28. The Hawkeyes continued to slice away at the lead with help from an inside-outside approach.
The Hawkeyes missed their first 10 3-point attempts before Zach McCabe connected with 13:33 left in the game. The Hawkeyes then hit their next two — McCabe with one, then Josh Oglesby. Freshman center Adam Woodbury sparked the Hawkeyes in the post, hitting 5-of-6 shots overall for 12 points.
“We knew in ourselves what we had to do was go out there and play our own game,” said Woodbury, who grabbed eight rebounds. “We were timid in the beginning and it showed.”
Oglesby had struggled shooting from 3-point range, missing 13 of his first 14 attempts this year. He popped three 3-pointers in the second half and led the Hawkeyes with 13 points.
“Fran believes in me and the coaching staff does and that gives me confidence,” Oglesby said.
It was quite the reversal for Gardner-Webb, which was almost flawless in the first half. They attacked Iowa’s offense, causing 11 turnovers and held the Hawkeyesto 20 percent from the field.
“I give credit to Coach McCaffery and their program responding the way they did, because down 20 is not an easy thing,” Gardner-Webb Coach Chris Holtmann said. “They flipped that thing pretty easy. Whoa, that’s an ugly number, 47-18.”