March 14, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- If Carver-Hawkeye Arena needs an alias, Dayton head men's basketball coach Archie Miller might recommend "The Hive."
"This is probably the toughest venue we've been in all season," Miller said after Iowa's 84-75 first-round victory over Miller's Flyers on Tuesday in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). "We were coming into a bee's nest."
Paul Williams, a Dayton guard who played his final collegiate game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, might offer "The Dog Pound."
"Their fans came out and supported them," Williams said. "It was a very energetic crowd. We ran into a dogfight today."
Carver-Hawkeye Arena was loud Tuesday -- Big Ten Conference Championships loud...NCAA Championships loud. And for UI head coach Fran McCaffery, his nickname for the arena could be "The Electric Company."
"I am so thankful for the Hawkeye fans to show up the way they did. That was amazing when you think about it. We didn't know we had a game until Sunday night, and then over 13,000 people show up in less than 48 hours. That's pretty good. That says everything you need to know about Hawkeye fans."
UI head coach Fran McCaffery
"When I came out on to the floor, which is about three minutes before tip, you could feel the energy level in the building," he said. "I could see that despite the fact that it was an up-and-down game, and it was a physical game, our guys were not getting tired. That's really a direct result of the crowd energy."
Tuesday marked the first postseason appearance for the Hawkeyes since 2006. It marked their first NIT appearance since 2004. It was also the first postseason men's basketball victory of any kind for the UI since a 54-53 win in the NIT against Iowa State in Ames on March 21, 2003.
A big reason for Tuesday's Hawkeye success was an obvious result of Aaron White, Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe combining for 60 points, 24 rebounds, and a 75.8 shooting percentage from the field (25-of-33). But don't underestimate the influence of 13,190 Iowa supporters.
"I am so thankful for the Hawkeye fans to show up the way they did," McCaffery said. "That was amazing when you think about it. We didn't know we had a game until Sunday night, and then over 13,000 people show up in less than 48 hours. That's pretty good. That says everything you need to know about Hawkeye fans."
White, a freshman, was playing his first postseason game. So was Matt Gatens, a home-grown senior. If you were in uniform and sitting on the Hawkeye bench last night, you were in uncharted waters. But Hawkeye fans have long memories: memories of a Final Four in 1980; memories of an NCAA win against Creighton in 2001; even memories of an NCAA championship performance against San Francisco in 1956.
The fans' energy transformed into the players' performance. And what a performance it was.
White scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and he spent much of the evening swinging from rims after thunderous dunks that revved the Hawkeye faithful even more. McCabe was 9-for-9 from the field with eight rebounds. Point guard Bryce Cartwright handed out 11 assists.
"Great crowd tonight. Probably one of the best of the year," White said. "They were really loud and they were really into it from the opening tipoff. That's exciting for the players, you feed off that. If you get a dunk, they go nuts, and it feeds your energy on both the defensive and offensive end."
Defensive end: Iowa limits Dayton to 39.4 percent shooting from the field. Offensive end: the Hawkeyes shoot 56.9 percent from the field, including 60 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
"Coach McCaffery has done a fabulous job and the momentum they have moving forward is exciting," Miller said. "The people who come to an NIT game really want to come. They buy the tickets. In most cases the season ticket holders and some of the regulars aren't even there. You catch a different vibe in the arena at times. It speaks volumes to the support."
Miller spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State. He knows the Big Ten Conference. He knows Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He knew what to expect.
"The venues in the Big Ten are always the toughest places to play," Miller said. "That's why that conference is so special. When you run up against a team like Iowa, you get a great appreciation for how good their conference is. We went into a special environment -- a postseason environment -- and their team really, really played well."
It was an extraordinary setting. A setting 13,000 Hawkeye fans wouldn't mind recreating in the not-so-distant future.