Dec. 19, 2009
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By David Meyer
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa faced off against an in-state rival for the third consecutive game as Drake visited Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday evening. After falling to Northern Iowa and Iowa State, the third time was the charm for the Hawkeyes. They prevailed over the Bulldogs, 71-67, in a night where the number three had extra significance.
“I can’t imagine another state where you’ve got this kind of competition and you play every year home-and-home. Drake has been tough to play against the last two years and they were tough to play against tonight,” said UI head coach Todd Lickliter.
Matt Gatens opened the scoring with a 3 on the Hawkeyes’ first possession. Twenty-five seconds later, the Bulldogs’ Seth VanDeest matched that effort on the other end of the court. The two set the tone early in a war that was waged from long range all night.
Gatens played 40 minutes and led all players in points and rebounds with 18 and nine, respectively. He also added five assists and did not turn the ball over. Anthony Tucker was right behind his UI teammate, scoring 17 points.
Drake went up 11-10 with 12:52 remaining in the first half following a lay-up on a rare drive down the lane by Craig Stanley. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 23-16 after Ryan Wedel made his third triple of the half. The seven-point advantage marked the largest Bulldog lead. Iowa erased the deficit by going on a 10-3 run to tie the score at 26, but fell behind again after back-to-back 3s from Stanley and Ben Simons.
Amidst the barrage from deep, Eric May scored three of his 13 total points the conventional way after drawing a foul on a lay-up and converting the ensuing free throw with 1:01 remaining in the first stanza. May’s score was the last of the half as Iowa went to the locker room trailing by one point, 32-31.
The teams shot an identical 44-percent from the field in the first half, each making 11 of 25 attempts. Drake made 9 of 17 3-point attempts, while Iowa was 6 for 16.
Gatens started the second half firing from downtown again. He hit two more 3s as the second half began, both from the left corner. The second put Iowa on top, 39-36.
The Hawkeyes did not look back from there.
Doctors cleared Lickliter to return to coaching, but concerns for his health may have been put away prematurely. Lickliter took a spill in the second half after Wedel and Gatens ran into the Iowa bench pursuing a loose ball.
“It was scary to be honest with you, but I couldn’t get out of the way, and it didn’t hurt,” said Lickliter.
Jarryd Cole was in foul trouble all game. He played 19 minutes and fouled out with 2:15 left in the game. Brennan Cougill also saw limited time, playing 16 minutes. With the two Hawkeye big men out of the game, Lickliter elected to go with a small lineup featuring no player taller than 6-foot-6.
“Aaron Fuller came in and did a great job on both ends. He really gave a lot of energy. He’s kind of been hurting with his ankle and he’s finally feeling a lot better so that made a big difference,” said May.
Iowa broadened its lead to double digits with 6:09 remaining in the contest, going up 61-51 after a Tucker trifecta, but Drake made it interesting. The Bulldogs steadily cut into the Hawkeye lead and made it a one-possession game after a VanDeest free throw cut it to 66-64 with 36 seconds remaining.
After having trouble on late inbounds plays, May and Gatens hit key free throws as Drake had to foul. May was 7 of 10 from the line, but he made only 1 of 2 with 28 seconds left, so he found Gatens the next time he had the ball.
“I have a lot of confidence when I go to the line. You just have to step up and knock them down because they’re crucial,” said Gatens.
He was perfect on all four of his free throw attempts, and his last two sealed the victory.
The win was an encouraging sign for a 4-7 Iowa team trying to turn the corner. The Hawkeyes have been on the other end of many close games and they welcomed the role reversal.
“I thought it was a good win for us because we got contributions from a lot of people and we did a lot of good things. Down the stretch, they came back on us and we were able to maintain our poise,” said Lickliter.