Dec. 5, 2008
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by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After a taxing road trip, the University of Iowa men’s basketball was happy to be back home, but even more thrilled to have its way with Bryant University, dominating the Bulldogs, 61-36, inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night.
After traveling from the west coast to the east coast, playing West Virginia, Kansas State and Boston College, Iowa will virtually be home throughout the month of December and home has been very good to the Hawkeyes.
“It is always good to come home and be in front of your home fans,” UI freshman Matt Gatens said. “It is nice to come home and win a game like this.”
The Hawkeyes shot 21 of 43 (49 percent) from the field, including 11 of 15 (73 percent) in the second half. They shot 12 of 28 (43 percent) from three-point range. Bryant finished 11 of 37 (30 percent) from the floor and were 5 of 15 (33 percent) from deep.
The 36 points the Hawkeyes surrendered was the second-lowest point total under head coach Todd Lickliter.
“Tonight I thought the guys were focused and our defense was strong,” Lickliter said. “I thought that we struggled for the first five minutes in the first half, but other than that, I think we played pretty strong.”
“I played against Todd’s teams a couple times when I was at Ohio and he was coaching at Butler,” Bryant University head coach Tim O’Shea said. “They always have very, very good man-to-man defense. I think they are a very nice team that, as these younger players mature and gain confidence, they will have a chance to have a very nice season.”
Gatens torched Bryant for a career-high19 points on 6 of 12 shooting and was 3 of 6 from outside the perimeter. Freshman Anthony Tucker also finished in double figures with 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting — all from three-point land. Tucker, Iowa’s leading scorer, is back on track after going scoreless against Boston College.
“[Anthony] is a terrific shooter and he made some tough ones for us tonight,” Lickliter said. “I thought he was pretty effective and he played some good minutes tonight.”
Following a solid 12-point performance in a loss to Boston College on Tuesday, Gatens quickly hit a three out of the gate to take the lead over the Bulldogs. Junior Jermain Davis followed on the ensuing possession, hitting from behind the arc to push Iowa’s lead to 6-0, with 17:22 remaining in the first half.
With 11:44 left in the half, Gatens drilled another trey to push the Hawkeyes lead to 15-5. The Hawkeyes’ rebounding, a trouble spot at Boston College, seemed to be back on track with some early offensive boards. Senior Cyrus Tate, knowing the Hawkeyes needed a bigger presence down low, took the challenge, amassing 11 boards in the first half.
Tate almost single-handedly outrebounded the Bulldogs, who pulled down 12 rebounds in the half. Tate finished the game with 12 rebounds as the Hawkeyes went on to grab 32 boards to Bryant’s 18.
“Tonight I thought the guys were focused and our defense was strong. I thought that we struggled for the first five minutes in the first half, but other than that, I think we played pretty strong.”
UI head coach
“I think we definitely did (a better job of rebounding),” Gatens said. “It was a huge improvement from Las Vegas and Boston College. It was definitely a good improvement. The coaches made a big emphasis on it after those games, I think we listened tonight and we need to keep on listening.”
Scoring took a back seat for a few minutes, but the Hawkeyes were able to shut down the Bulldogs from scoring and comfortably stayed ahead 15-6 before the scoring picked up again.
“We are really just trying to find ourselves on defense,” Davis said. “We’re trying to make sure that defense will always be there. Even on the nights that were not shooting it real well, we are going to make sure that defense will be there.”
Davis was able to get Iowa back on track. Davis sat at the perimeter and threw the ball to Tate on the right side of the arc and assisted him inside for an easy layup. The next possession sophomore Jake Kelly nailed a trey to put the Hawkeyes up 20-8 and was followed by a layup by sophomore Jeff Peterson.
The Bulldogs had trouble getting anything going offensively in the first half and headed into intermission down 26-14.
Gatens started the second half the same way he started the first — with another long jumper. After shooting a lackluster 26 percent in the first half, the Bulldogs came out with a hot hand and cut Iowa’s lead to nine with a three-ball from Andrew Lyell and a few buckets from Barry Latham.
Tucker helped the Hawkeyes take a 34-23 advantage with a three pointer, his first points of the contest. Trying to slow the Hawkeyes, the Bulldogs set up a full-court press, but to no advantage, as Tucker drained another three to give the Hawkeyes a sizeable 40-23 advantage. On the following possession Tucker nailed another trey before the Bulldogs came back and hit one of their own from Chris Birrell. The Hawkeyes and Bulldogs traded three’s again when freshman Aaron Fuller hit from downtown before Peter Lambert followed it up with one of his own as Iowa led 46-29 with 7:56 left in the game.
Bryant could not seem to cut Iowa’s lead when a minute later Birrell hit from deep before Fuller equaled it with a shot from downtown.
Peterson assisted a Tate dunk over Bryant to take a 53-32 lead and put the game well out of reach with 5:10 left. Things continued to go Iowa’s way in the second half when Tucker lost grip of the ball before picking it up and swishing a prayer from behind the arc with one-second remaining on the shot clock. Junior David Palmer, not known for his three-point shooting, also hit from deep for the Hawkeyes a few possessions later.
“Bryant isn’t an ACC school, but they are still a Division I team,” Kelly said. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t have a letdown tonight thinking about UNI and Iowa State next week. So we just wanted to come in here and play a good game.”
Iowa will remain at home to take on in-state rival Northern Iowa on Tuesday with a 6:05 p.m. tipoff.
“You have to take a lot of pride in those games,” Gatens said. “We just need to try and play as hard as we can and come out on top of the state. It is like a state tournament almost. We have to take a lot of pride to want to beat those teams.”