The 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes handled their end, but they'll instead be taking on Villanova for the tournament title on Saturday night in the Bahamas after the Wildcats' shocking upset of the Jayhawks.
Villanova's path to the title game, however, was a little more arduous, requiring a Ryan Arcidiacono 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left to pull ahead for an eventual 63-59 win over Kansas.
Arcidiacono had missed all five of his previous shots - all from 3-point range - before converting the Wildcats' only basket of the game's final 7:19. The sophomore guard had started the season 5 for 24 from 3-point range entering Friday's contest after shooting 32.7 percent from long distance in 2012-13.
"We had a choice who we were going to run that for," coach Jay Wright said of the play that Arcidiacono found an opening on. ''And we picked Ryan. I don't think there's a guy on our team who would doubt that. ... Everybody just knows he lives for that. When we practice end of the game situations in practice, he always makes the shot.''
Iowa, meanwhile, coasted into Saturday's tournament finale with an 89-53 win over the Miners, improving to 7-0 for the first time since 2000-01. It was a welcome result after not leading until overtime of Thursday's 77-74 victory against Xavier.
The Hawkeyes, who recorded 22 assists on 31 field goals versus UTEP, led by 20 with more than six minutes left in Friday's first half.
"To me, the way we distributed the ball, that shows you your transition game is working because guys are finishing, whether it's Zach's (McCabe's) dunk or someone else," coach Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa finished with a 15-2 advantage in fast-break points after being outscored 18-9 on the break against Xavier. Aaron White scored a game-high 17 points, six of which came on fast-break layups and dunks.
Villanova claimed a 5-2 advantage in fast-break points against Kansas Thursday.
Three Iowa players in addition to White scored at least 10 points, marking the fifth time this season four or more players reached double figures.
"It was fun out there with everyone making baskets and cheering for each other," McCabe, who scored 14 points in as many minutes, told the team's official website. "We got our guys to come in off the bench and play, and we had great defensive intensity the whole game."
The Hawkeyes' defense also continued to play well, holding UTEP 14 points below its previous low-water mark for the season.
However, they might not be able to survive a second straight ineffective performance from leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble, who was 2 for 6 with seven points. Marble scored a season-high 30 on Thursday before exiting late in the second half with a severe leg cramp.
Villanova holds a 3-1 all-time series edge, winning the last meeting 89-60 on Nov. 20, 2006, in the third-place game of the Paradise Jam.