Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) After a pair of tough road losses, Iowa needed senior Matt Gatens to provide leadership, stability and, above all else, a strong game against rival Drake.
Gatens was brilliant on both ends of the floor on Saturday night.
Gatens led five Hawkeyes in double figures with 20 points and shut down Drake star Ben Simons as Iowa knocked off the Bulldogs 82-68 to snap a two-game losing streak.
"He knows when we're struggling. He's the captain. He's the senior. He's the guy, and so much falls on him and he's just been terrific," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Gatens, who played all 40 minutes. "Just an incredible performance, and that's what we needed."
Bryce Cartwright added 12 points for the Hawkeyes (6-5), who also avoided their first sweep at the hands of their instate rivals Drake, Iowa State and Northern Iowa.
Rayvonte Rice led Drake (6-4) with 23 points, 19 of those coming in the second half. But Simons, the Bulldogs leading scorer, suffered through foul trouble and had just five points on 2 for 8 shooting with four turnovers.
A lot of that was because Gatens hounded him from the opening tip.
"The impressive thing is, he shut him down and got 20. That's really hard to do," McCaffery said.
For once, Gatens and his teammates were also able to assert themselves offensively against a solid opponent.
Iowa's Devyn Marble, who had 35 points in his last two games, helped push the advantage to 52-37 early in the second half with a no-look pass in the open court to a pair of trailing players, Gatens and Eric May. Gatens beat May for the ball and an easy layup.
Drake briefly got within 69-60, and Marble committed a foul that drew the ire of coach Fran McCaffery. But Cartwright hit a runner in the lane and a pair of free throws to push Iowa back ahead 77-63 with 4:46 left, effectively putting the Bulldogs away for good.
Iowa shot 50 percent despite hitting just three 3-pointers.
"It was a focused effort. It wasn't perfect, but it was hard fought at both ends. We executed when we had to," McCaffery said.
The 6-foot-8 Simons figured to be a matchup problem for Iowa, but he never got into any kind of rhythm. Simons came in averaging nearly 17 points a game, but he didn't score until there was 12:20 left in the game.
"I thought he used his physicality pretty well with (Simons)," Drake coach Mark Phelps said of Gatens. "Ben had been shooting the ball so well, I guess he was probably due for one of these games. But you certainly have to give their defense credit."
Melsahn Basabe, Aaron White and Marble each scored 10 points for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes led much of the first half and built their lead to double-digits, 38-28, on a tip-in from Gatens with just over three minutes left in the first half. Iowa pushed it to 44-30 on a bucket by freshman Josh Oglesby and an open 15-foot jumper from Zach McCabe.
Iowa capitalized on Drake's poor shooting - just 11 for 30 in the first half - into open looks at the other end. The Hawkeyes shot 57.6 percent in the first 20 minutes and got 26 of their 44 points inside the paint.
The Hawkeyes had been humbled on the road in their last two games, decisive losses at Northern Iowa and Iowa State. The Panthers beat Iowa by 20, and the Cyclones led by as many as 24 points before cruising to an 86-76 win.
But the Bulldogs have never had much success at Iowa, and Saturday night wasn't any different.
Jordan Clarke had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Drake, which committed 19 turnovers and lost for the 29th time in 32 trips to Iowa City.
"I'm really disappointed in the way we played based on our preparation," Phelps said. "I thought we would play better on the road."