Matt Gatens and the Iowa Hawkeyes finally got the monkey off their back.
Matt had not beaten Illinois in six straight tries.
The Fighting Illini had beaten the Hawks eight straight times.
Last Thursday, at the Big Ten Tournament, that finally came to an end.
Iowa, still riding on Matt Gatens’ shoulders, came from behind, held off Illinois and Matt hit two free throws with 10 seconds left and the Hawks won, 64-61.
It always amazes me that two teams could play two games in less than 12 days and have such different results.
Iowa lost to the Fighting Illini on Feb. 26 at Champagne, 65-54.
It was like a dunk contest as 7-1 Leonard Meyers went off on the Hawks scoring 22 points (mostly on dunks), had 14 rebounds and Illinois out-rebounded Iowa, 35-27.
Paul Brandon scored 17 and D.J. Richardson chipped in 12.
In the Hawkeyes’ win, Meyers scored 18 points, had six rebounds and the Hawks won the board battle, 39-35.
The other stat that sticks out is Iowa had 18 turnovers in the loss, six in the win.
Also, Bryce Cartwright was hurting in the first game, came off the bench, played 18 minutes, had two assists, two turnovers and didn’t score a point.
Bryce started and played 33 minutes in the win, scored five with seven assists and three rebounds.
It was nice to get a win in the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa’s first in five years.
They played nine players and all of them contributed.
“The intensity level of this game required us to play nine players,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “It required us to get good play from all nine. This is really a team victory.”
Matt Gatens finished with 20 and played solid defense as usual.
“It just continues to amaze me,” said coach McCaffery. “He had the energy level to play defense that way and then still get it done at the other end of the floor.”
Devyn Marble, Aaron White, Zach McCabe, Josh Oglesby and Melsahn Basabe continued to come up with big plays when the game was on the line.
Devyn had only one turnover in 28 minutes, Zach hit the boards with six and had to cover the 7-1 Leonard.
Aaron has such a great motor. He was getting tip-ins, scoring 13, pulling down nine boards and coming up with three steals.
Josh hit a couple of threes and scored eight with four rebounds.
Mel is letting the game come to him, hitting 3-4 from the floor and adding a shot-blocking presence on defense.
What did the Hawks get for their win over Illinois?
A shot to play the number one seed and co-Big Ten Champs Michigan state on Friday.
There are two teams Iowa didn’t match up with in the Big Ten this year…Michigan State and Ohio State.
Both have big front lines, really good depth and pretty good outside shooters.
Aaron White, Zach McCabe an Melsahn Basabe work hard to cover bigger post players, but can only do so much.
Help is on the way, though, and after the Hawks lost to the Spartans, 92-65, I watched Adam Woodbury, the 7-2 Iowa recruit, who was playing for the state championship for the Sioux City East Black Raiders.
East knocked off No. 1-ranked Ankeny in double-overtime Friday afternoon with Adam scoring 17 and pulling down 12 rebounds. He did foul out in the second OT but showed he can play even though he was double- and triple-teamed most of the afternoon.
Adam is not a great free throw shooter, but is left handed and showed he can score with his right hand.
Adam would lose in the championship game to West High, 67-52, as the Trojans matched what the West High women did, winning the title. Adam finished with 16 points and nine rebounds but his team couldn’t contain the one-two punch of Jeremy Morgan and Dondre Alexander. They combined for 40 points, shooting 11-19 from the floor, 13-17 from the free throw line.
Another Hawkeye recruit, guard Mike Gesell from South Sioux City, scored 39 points and his team won in the Nebraska State semifinals, including 3-8 from three-point range.
Mike’s team would also lose in the championship game and he would finish with 30.
Back to the Michigan State game– the Spartans outscored the Hawks 40-20 in the paint and out-rebounded Iowa, 36-24.
State was all over Matt Gatens, holding him to 10, but Josh Oglesby had 20, Zach McCabe 13 and Bryce Cartwright was shut-out.
Josh was 5-7 from three-point land, Zach 3-4 but the Spartans had four players in double figures, jumped to a 55-39 halftime lead and never looked back.
It sounds like it’s NIT or nothing for Iowa if they want to play in the postseason.
The Hawks are 17-16. Hopefully by the time you read this Wednesday, Iowa will have beaten Dayton in the first round of the NIT at Carver Hawkeye Arena.