NICEVILLE, Fla. — Stifling defense, as usual, carried the day again for No. 7 Virginia as the Cavaliers cruised to their fifth straight win.
Jerred Reuter led a well-balanced scoring attack with 14 points, but it was that trademark defense that set the tone for a 74-41 victory over Iowa on Friday night in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic.
"It's what we do," said London Perrantes, who added 12 points and led the Cavaliers with four assists. "We work on defense every single day in practice. We know what we have to do to win games."
The Cavaliers (5-0) will play for the tournament title today against the winner of Friday's late game between Memphis and Providence.
Isaiah Wilkins had 11 points for Virginia and Darius Thompson had 10.
Offense, though, took a back seat as it often does whenever Virginia plays.
The Cavaliers began the day leading the nation in scoring defense by holding opponents to 38.8 points per game.
Iowa (3-2) barely bested that average, led by Peter Jok's 13 points.
"They really are a great example of five guys playing as one," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "They're in the gaps, they're fighting the post, they close off penetration."
The Hawkeyes shot only 31.3 percent from the field including 26.1 percent from 3-point range.
The Cavaliers hit 48.3 percent from the field including 47.1 percent on 3s.
"You could see they had some inexperience, just like we do," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of Iowa. "They're still coming together and finding themselves."
Iowa opened the scoring with two free throws by Nicholas Baer, but Virginia went on an 11-0 run that began with a 3-pointer by Thompson and the Hawkeyes never threatened again.
The win was the first for Virginia in only the third game between the schools. The previous meetings came in the 1997 NCAA Tournament's first round and the 2013 NIT quarterfinals.
Virginia is seeking its fourth straight regular-season tournament championship.
Virginia: The Cavaliers passed their first real test of the season on Black Friday after fattening up with four easy pre-Thanksgiving wins against UNC Greensboro, St. Francis, Brooklyn, Yale and Grambling State. They did it without Memphis transfer Austin Nichols, who was expected to provide low post scoring but was dismissed from the team for rules violations a week earlier. Now the going continues to get tougher with Memphis or Providence on Saturday and then Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, followed by No. 19 West Virginia and East Carolina.
Iowa: The high-flying Hawkeyes, who had been averaging 96.2 points per game before Friday, crash landed against Virginia's defensive scheme.
The Hawkeyes considered it a learning experience going in and they'll quickly get a chance to see how well they grasped that lesson against Memphis or Providence, both proficient defensive teams. Then it doesn't get any easier next week when Iowa plays at Notre Dame in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge on Tuesday.