INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Cincinnati expects blocked shots and rebounds from Jason Maxiell. But 3-pointers?
The 6-foot-7 senior had 22 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots, a pair of steals and the first two 3-point baskets of his college career Thursday in a 76-64 first-round NCAA tournament victory over Iowa.
The Bearcats (25-7) advanced to Saturday’s second round of the Austin Regional against Kentucky (26-5), which won its opener 72-64 over Eastern Kentucky at the RCA Dome.
Maxiell had missed all five 3-point attempts he had taken in his first 127 games with Cincinnati. But in the closing minutes against Iowa, with the game already decided, he shot twice from long range and hit both.
“I just felt comfortable with my range and shot it,” he said. “It went in, so I decided to take a second one.”
The Cincinnati bench erupted.
“I knew he had it in him,” teammate Eric Hicks said, laughing. “One, maybe, but not two.”
With the 250-pound Maxiell dominating the inside, Cincinnati showed a decidedly more physical game and threatened to run away from the Hawkeyes (21-12) almost from the start.
His six blocked shots gave him 89 for the season, second only to the school-record 107 by Kenyon Martin in 2000. With two other blocks by Hicks, the Bearcats are one short of the team-record 223 also set in 2000.
“Our guys did a real good job defensively,” Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. “We got the shooters. We were disciplined enough to stay down most of the time. Eric and Max were very active, which we need them to be. … They have to be active and fly around the ball.”
With Maxiell repeatedly swatting away shots under the basket and Iowa unable to hit from the outside, the Bearcats limited the Hawkeyes to just one field goal and three free throws in the first 11 minutes of the game. Three-pointers by Nick Williams, James White and Armein Kirkland, meanwhile, sparked a 21-3 run that put Cincinnati in control midway through the first half.
Iowa, which shot 34 percent for the game, missed 13 of its first 14 shots before a basket by Jeff Horner and 3-pointer by Carlton Reed with less than 8 minutes left in the first half. The Hawkeyes finally started hitting late in the period, cutting their 18-point deficit to 32-22 at the break, and continued their rally early in the second half.
A 3-pointer by Greg Brunner, who led Iowa with 20 points and 10 rebounds, pulled the Hawkeyes to 34-29. Then, after Maxiell hit one of two free throws, another 3-pointer by Horner made it 35-32.
That was as close as Iowa came.
“We thought we could get back in it,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “We fought like crazy to get back in it, but to Cincinnati’s credit they went on another big run and we just couldn’t recover from there.
“We picked a bad day to have a not real good shooting day.”
Williams hit two straight 3-pointers, Eric Hicks and Maxiell each scored a basket and, after an Iowa turnover, Maxiell completed a 12-point Cincinnati run with another basket for a 47-32 lead. Iowa never came closer than 10 points after that.
Another 3-pointer by Horner brought the Hawkeyes within 60-50, but they then went without a field goal for more than six minutes. Maxiell blocked two more shots and put the game out of reach with his two 3-pointers and a dunk.
“He was making a big presence in the lane,” Iowa’s Adam Haluska said. “He was throwing a lot of stuff out of there. He caused us to take some tough shots from outside and they weren’t going down.”
White added 15 points and Williams finished with 13 for Cincinnati. Horner had 12 points for the Hawkeyes, whose leading scorer for the season, Pierre Pierce, was kicked off the team in February after his arrest for assault.