Paradise Island, Bahamas (SportsNetwork.com) - The 23rd-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes will look to march into the Battle 4 Atlantis title game when they square off with the Texas-El Paso Miners at Imperial Arena on Friday.
The Hawkeyes showed real resolve in the first round on Thursday as they rallied back after trailing most of the game, to claim a 77-74 overtime victory over Xavier. The win was the sixth straight to start the year for Iowa, which is in the national rankings for the first time since 2006.
A blistering shooting night carried UTEP to a surprising, 78-70, victory over Tennessee in the first round of the tournament on Thursday. The win was the third in four games for the Miners, who are now 4-2 this season.
UTEP won the only other meeting between these squads, 84-82, during the 1987 NCAA Tournament.
The victor of this game moves on to face the winner of the Kansas/Villanova semifinal in the tournament's championship game.
In the second half the Hawkeyes led by as many as 15 points against the Musketeers. Iowa was able to make its comeback thanks to strong defense down the stretch as it held Xavier to just 36.4 percent shooting after halftime and a 1-of-9 showing in the extra session.
The Hawkeyes' impressive start has been fueled by strong offense and even strong defense. Iowa is holding teams to just 57.8 points per game on 32.5 percent shooting. On the other end the Hawkeyes are ranked 14th in the country in points (90 pg) and 13th in assists (18 pg). Roy Devyn Marble (17.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) is a versatile swingman that can play in the back and frontcourts with equal success. Devyn-Marble is also an effective defender as he leads the team with 19 steals. Aaron White (13.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) anchors the team from the interior, while Jarrod Uthoff (9.8 ppg) is one of eight other players scoring at least five points per game.
The Miners knocked down 58 percent of their shots from the field in their victory over the Volunteers. The Miners led by as many as 15 points in the contest thanks to the torrid shooting, as well as a 23-13 edge in points off of turnovers.
Even though the Miners haven't had the level of success they had against Tennessee most nights, they are still an impressive unit. UTEP is making good on 47.8 percent of its field goal tries, scoring just over 75 points per game. UTEP is also a solid defensive squad, limiting foes to 36.1 percent shooting. McKenzie Moore (15 ppg, 4.6 rpg) tops the scorer's list for the Miners and does so efficiently, netting 54 percent of his shots from the floor. Moore finished with a team-high 19 points against Tennessee. Julian Washburn (10.7 ppg) and John Bohannon (10.6 ppg) are other reliable scorers for the team.