Gonzaga dominates in 87-68 win over Iowa in NCAA tournament

Gonzaga dominates in 87-68 win over Iowa in NCAA tournament
Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer reacts after making one of his four three-point shots against Iowa during the Bulldogs' 87-68 victory over the Hawkeyes on Sunday. (Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images)

Gonzaga flexed its speed, muscle, depth and home-state advantage Sunday to accomplish something it hasn't done in six years — advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Second-seeded Gonzaga (34-2) not only moved on to the round of 16 with an 87-68 win over Iowa at KeyArena, it played like a team with no plans of stopping until the Final Four in Indianapolis.

The dirty little secret surrounding one of America's favorite postseason programs is that it hasn't really made many deep runs since reaching the 1999 West regional finals.

"It's pretty much the talk around town," senior guard Byron Wesley, a fifth-year graduate transfer from USC, said.


Gonzaga last ventured this far in 2009, when it lost to North Carolina in the South regional semifinals.

"If anyone says they weren't thinking about that," they're lying, senior guard Gary Bell Jr. said. "I definitely wanted to get over the hump."

Sunday's win sets up a delicious (and surprising) South regional semifinal matchup against UCLA on Friday in Houston.

Just so you know: Gonzaga was supposed to get this far; UCLA was not.

"I am surprised," Bell said of facing UCLA. "But we'll take it. We beat them earlier this year, but they're obviously a better team now. We're not going to take them lightly."

Wesley transferred from USC this year thinking he might get away from UCLA.

No such luck.

"When Selection Sunday came they had no shot of getting in," Wesley said. "I don't know what they were thinking, but the committee knew. They deserved to get in."

The programs have history. Gonzaga handed UCLA its only home loss this year, 87-74 at Pauley Pavilion.

That didn't nearly make up for the program pain UCLA inflicted on Gonzaga in the 2006 West regional semifinals in Oakland.

UCLA rallied back from a 17-point deficit to clip the Bulldogs by two. The game left Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, the national player of the year, crying at midcourt.

Gonzaga leaves Seattle, though, as one of the most impressive teams left in the field.

The Bulldogs out-raced Iowa from the outset with a free-flow, up-tempo game that left the Hawkeyes breathless.

Gonzaga made a remarkable 62% of its shots (32 for 52) and seven of 10 three-point attempts.

"They have weapons any way you look at it," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.

Kyle Wiltjer, the junior transfer from Kentucky, led Gonzaga with 24 points.

He was six for six before missing his first shot with nine minutes left. Wiltjer ended up making 10 of 12 attempts and also added seven rebounds.

Gonzaga never trailed in the game and took a 17-point lead into halftime.

Iowa (22-12) nibbled the lead down to 11 at one point in the second half, but Gonzaga answered with a 19-2 run capped by Kevin Pangos' three-pointer with 6:37 left.

Gonzaga dominated inside and out, with big men Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis combining for 27 points and 13 rebounds.

The inside presence opened up shots on the perimeter.

"It really does open things up for us," Wiltjer said.

Pangos led the guards with 16 points, while Bell had 10 and Wesley contributed five.

Jarrod Uthoff led Iowa with 20 points, while Aaron White had 19.

Gonzaga players insist they will not take much stock in already defeating UCLA this season.

"That game doesn't matter now," Karnowski said of the December game in Los Angeles. "I know they are a good team. People said they shouldn't be in the tournament, they proved that one wrong. Good for them."