Feb. 23, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — What makes Matt Gatens’ 30-point, seven 3-point field goal performance against Indiana on Feb. 19 so remarkable?
John Johnson remains the ultimate Hawkeye men’s basketball scoring machine with single-game totals of 49, 46 and 38 from 1968-70.
On 14 occasions, an Iowa student-athlete has swished at least seven 3-pointers in a game, and Chris Kingsbury made nine twice during the 1994-95 season.
So what puts the shine on the effort Gatens displayed during a 78-66 victory against the No. 18 Hoosiers inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena?
With 1:23 left in the first half, Gatens made his first field goal (in four tries) from beyond the arc. He didn’t miss again from long range. And when Indiana made a run to creep within 10 points with eight minutes to play, Gatens sank 3-pointer No. 4 to extend the margin to a more comfortable 13 with 7:21 remaining. The last time Gatens misfired on a field goal was at the 16:25 mark of the second half. That’s 985 seconds of perfection.
“The thing he’s been able to do, particularly this year, is make the timely baskets when we need them,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We have a young team, so a lot of it falls on him. We gave away half of our lead, and he made the biggest 3 of the game — and then of course, he made three more after that — at the same time guarding the other team’s best offensive perimeter player.”
“The thing he’s been able to do, particularly this year, is make the timely baskets when we need them. We have a young team, so a lot of it falls on him. We gave away half of our lead, and he made the biggest 3 of the game — and then of course, he made three more after that — at the same time guarding the other team’s best offensive perimeter player.”
UI head basketball coach
The statistics line for Gatens on Sunday was 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field (7-of-10 from 3-point range), 3-of-3 from the line, with four rebounds and three steals. That performance helped the Hawkeyes end a two-game losing skid while snapping a three-game win streak by Indiana. Gatens ended his career a perfect four wins in four tries against the Hooisers at home.
A day after the victory, Gatens told David Nuno of Yahoo! Sports Radio that his performance was memorable, but not his finest.
“I didn’t have that many assists or steals or rebounds,” Gatens said. “But scoring-wise, it has to be right up there with games in high school and AAU. Right now it’s probably the most memorable one in that case.”
Gatens didn’t change his “complete-player” tune Tuesday when meeting with reporters in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Other than points, Gatens was pleased with his team defense against Indiana: “keeping my guy from scoring, or helping out on guys,” he said.
“There are a lot of players that can shoot the ball and shoot 3s, but can’t defend, see the open guy, or get in the lane,” Gatens said. “Something I take a lot of pride in is trying to have a complete game all of the time. Sometimes it’s more points, more assists, or more rebounds, but it’s always nice to get a good all-around game to help the team out in as many ways possible.”
As a teenage Hawkeye fan, Gatens spent game days keeping a tally of rebounds by Reggie Evans. Gatens was 9 when he watched Kent McCausland drain five 3-point goals in the second half to lead Iowa past Arkansas, 82-72, in the NCAA Tournament. Against Indiana on Sunday, it was Gatens who lit the fuse of inspiration for the next generation of Hawkeye fan.
Iowa has three wins against nationally ranked opponents this season. Another opportunity looms when No. 15 Wisconsin comes to Iowa City on Thursday with an 8:05 p.m. (CT) tip. In the first meeting — a 72-65 Hawkeye victory in Madison, Wis., on New Year’s Eve — Gatens flashed his all-around ability. He was limited to six points in 34 minutes, but he gathered 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
“I remember when we beat Wisconsin last time, he did a phenomenal job on the glass and defensively,” McCaffery said. “That’s just a winning attitude that permeates the rest of everything we do.”
With 400 points in 27 games this season, Gatens has already surpassed his previous career-high for points in a season. His 1,503 points is 12th in Iowa history and leaves Gatens 20 points from bumping Don Nelson out of the school’s top 10 in career points. His 216 3-point field goals are third among all Hawkeyes, and two more than McCausland, a childhood idol. Only Luke Recker (87.3 percent) has been more proficient than Gatens (86.7) from the free throw line in a career.
Hawkeye fans may always remember the 30 points by Gatens; Gatens will always remember the victory.
“The win is what means most to me,” he said. “And having a smile on everyone’s face.”