UNIONDALE, New York (Ticker) -- The artist known as Prince painted another masterpiece and put Kentucky into the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in seven years.
Tayshaun Prince followed a 27-point effort in the first round with a career-high 31-point performance and led the Wildcats to a 92-79 victory over Iowa in the second round of the East Region at the Nassau Coliseum.
"My teammates were getting me the ball in the right places, and coach kept running plays for me," Prince said. "My confidence was there tonight, it has been there the whole season." On a collision course with Duke for perhaps another regional final at Philadelphia, Kentucky (24-9) will meet Southern California in the semifinals on Thursday in Philadelphia.
The 6-9 Prince used his long arms and slithery frame to shoot over and drive past Iowa defenders at will. He connected on 9-of-14 shots from the field, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range.
"Tayshaun put on a show tonight," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He has surpassed all expectations. He has great stamina and endurance. He is also very tough-minded and concentrates when the game is on the line. At the four spot, it is hard to guard him on the perimeter." Marquis Estill also set a career-high for Kentucky with 22 points off the bench on 9-of-11 shooting -- 15 points above his season average.
Kentucky shot a sizzling 59 percent from the field, including 13-of-24 from 3-point range.
"We knew Prince was an unbelievable player and hard to handle, but Estill really hurt," Iowa coach Steve Alford said. "He scored 22 points in 22 minutes. Estill really worked hard for them tonight." Alford somehow managed to win the Big Ten tournament without leading scorer Luke Recker, who has been sidelined with a chipped bone in his ankle and was hoping to return next week. But beating the second-seeded Wildcats was too difficult a task for Iowa to pull off without Recker.
Dean Oliver and Reggie Evans did their best to carry Iowa (23-12) but it wasn't enough against the deep Wildcats. Oliver had 26 points, including six 3-pointers, in his final college game and Evans collected 18 points and 13 rebounds.
"Nobody wants to lose, but to top it off Dean said that of all of his four years this was the best year he had," Evans said. "So that put a smile on my face and made me feel real good, knowing that I was a part of that and that this was his best team." Prince and Estill combined for 14 points as Kentucky closed the first half with a 23-6 run. A 3-pointer by Estill with 11 seconds left capped the spurt and opened a 45-33 lead.
Oliver hit a pair of 3-pointers and two free throws as Iowa opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to pull within 47-42.
But Kentucky responded with a 9-2 run of its own on a basket by Prince, a tip-in by Marvin Stone, a dunk by Estill and a 3-pointer by Dean Blevins, opening a 56-44 advantage.
A 3-pointer by Prince increased the lead to 64-50 with 10:26 left.
"If there is a better player playing in America than him, I'd like to see him," Kentucky guard Saul Smith said. "He's doing everything that coach is asking of him and more." After Iowa pulled within 66-58 on a layup and a 3-pointer by Oliver, Kentucky went on an 8-1 run. Prince highlighted the spurt with a basket and a 3-pointer, opening a 74-59 lead.
The Wildcats led by as many as 18 points in the final minute.
The Hawkeyes scored the first five points of the game and raced to a 16-7 lead in the first 4 1/2 minutes as Evans hit a pair of layups and a short jumper.
But Prince connected on a 3-pointer and Erik Daniels scored a layup to stem Iowa's momentum.
The Wildcats took their first lead, 29-28, on a layup by Gerald Fitch with 6:08 left and Prince followed with a pair of free throws.
A 3-pointer by Iowa's Brody Boyd tied the game at 33-33 with 4:06 left, but the Wildcats scored the last 12 points of the half.
Saul Smith and Prince ignited the spurt with 3-pointers and Estill capped it with a three-point play and a 3-pointer.