"We struggled in the first half, mainly due to Arizona's great defense," Davis said. "They had shut out (sophomore forward Ed) Horton and (sophomore guard Roy) Marble, so someone else had to pick up the slack. Gamble did that."
The 6-foot 6-inch Gamble scored 11 of his 20 points in the second half, including 5 to key a comeback rally, as the Hawkeyes overcame a 13-point deficit.
Iowa (21-2) trailed, 64-51, before reeling off a 25-4 spurt in the second half to take lead for good.
With 10:55 remaining, sophomore guard B.J. Armstrong made a three-point field goal to start the run. During the stretch, Gamble had a three-point play with 7:49 left to give Iowa a 69-68 lead.
The run ended with 6:06 left when Jeff Moe hit a three-point goal--his fifth of the game--to make it 76-68.
Arizona (13-8) pulled to within 83-80 when Kenny Lofton sank two free throws with 1:27 left. But the Wildcats got no closer as Iowa hit six of nine foul shots in the final seconds.
"No question the game was won in that five-minute stretch," said Arizona Coach Lute Olson, who coached Iowa for nine seasons before taking the Wildcats' job in 1983.
"The Hawkeyes got their transition game going and they beat us every way in those five minutes," Olson added. "The principal difference between a top 10 team and us was that five-minute segment."
Moe and Gerry Wright both finished with 15 points for Iowa. Brad Lohaus had 14 and Armstrong 11. Lohaus also had a game-high nine rebounds.
Sean Elliott paced Arizona with 25 points, 18 in the second half.