CHICAGO (AP) — Tony Bennett was spending time in the hotel room with his father, Dick, when the old coach had a question.
“He said, ‘You know what your grandfather would tell you?’ He’d tell you, ‘Don’t tiptoe into this one. No tiptoeing,'” Bennett said.
All Virginia did was stomp on Iowa State on Friday night.
Anthony Gill finished with a season-high 23 points, and Mike Tobey came off the bench to score 18, leading the top-seeded Cavaliers to an 84-71 victory in the Midwest Region semifinals.
They withstood a second-half push by the fourth-seeded Cyclones (23-12) after grabbing a big lead in the early going and advanced to their first regional final since 1995.
Virginia (29-7) will face Syracuse — a 63-60 winner over Gonzaga — on Sunday. A win would send the Cavaliers to their first Final Four since 1984 and give both Bennetts the distinction of leading teams there. Dick coached Wisconsin to one in 2000.
“I feel like we’ve just gotten better and better,” ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon said. “We’ve battled through our ups and downs, and it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Georges Niang had another big game for Iowa State, finishing with 30 points after scoring 28 against both Iona and Arkansas-Little Rock in the first two rounds, but he also committed four fouls.
For the Cyclones, an up-and-down first season under coach Steve Prohm ended on a disappointing note. With a chance to go farther than they ever did under predecessor Fred Hoiberg, they never could recover from a flat start in the arena where “The Mayor” now coaches the Chicago Bulls despite a rather fast tempo that was more to their liking.
“We have a lot to hold our heads high for,” forward Jameel McKay said. “But right now, it’s obvious we’re going to be down.”
Iowa State got outscored 52-36 in the paint, with Gill finishing two points shy of a career high and Tobey missing his personal best by one. Gill had eight rebounds while Tobey grabbed seven.
Those two were big reasons why the Cavaliers shot just over 56 percent and came away with the win even despite a quiet game from Brogdon. He had 12 points and five assists.
“I thought the pace of play wasn’t a big deal either way,” Prohm said. “When you really look and break it down, we turned it over a little bit too much (12 times) and they shot 56 percent from the field. In tournament play, we can’t give up that many.”
Virginia was leading 49-35 early in the second half when Iowa State went on a 9-2 run that Monte Morris finished with a floater, drawing a roar from a large contingent of Cyclones fans.
But Virginia kept its cool and got the lead back up to 15 — 63-48 — on a put-back by Tobey with 9:10 remaining.
With many in the crowd wearing Iowa State’s cardinal and gold colors, Virginia did all it could to silence them early. The Cavaliers led by as much as 17 and took a 45-31 advantage to the locker room.
Devon Hall hit a 3 on the game’s opening possession, London Perrantes added two more, and in a flash it was 17-3 just over five minutes into the game.
The Cavaliers exposed gaps whether Iowa State was playing man-to-man or zone. They showed some flash, too, like when Darius Thompson delivered a behind-the-back pass to Isaiah Wilkins for a fast-break dunk that made it 26-9.
Iowa State cut into the lead late in the half, with Niang nailing a 3 to make it 41-31 with just over a minute left. But Virginia regrouped.
Gill and Brogdon each hit a pair of free throws to make it a 14-point game and a soaring Gill blocked Niang’s layup at the buzzer.
“We’ve got a good offensive team as well,” Perrantes said. “But we hang on our hats on the defensive end. I feel like we’ve been playing our best defense as of late.”
HE SAID IT
Iowa State guard Matt Thomas on fan support: “It’s awesome they came out here and showed that much support. I wouldn’t trade them for any other fan base in the country. They’re just as much a part of this Sweet Sixteen run as we were.”
Iowa State: The Cyclones came in averaging 82.1 points.
Virginia: Virginia is headed to its seventh regional final. … The Cavaliers’ seniors tied the Class of 1983’s school record with their 112th win.
Iowa State: Season over.
Virginia: Faces Gonzaga or Syracuse on Sunday.