IOWA CITY — Matt Gatens retreated from the 3-point line, clenched his fists and yelled.
It wasn’t just any 3-pointer; it decided a game and got Gatens back in a groove. Gatens, a junior guard, drilled his only 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left to give Iowa a 10-point lead against Northern Iowa and erase a rough patch of personal shooting futility.
“From my perspective, it looked good,” Gatens said.
Gatens’ 3-pointer — his only one — sealed the game for Iowa, which beat Northern Iowa 51-39 last night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But it was than just one shot that put the Hawkeyes in position to win.
Iowa (5-4) pounded UNI on the boards, and outscored the Panthers 26-8 inside the paint. Iowa senior center Jarryd Cole scored 10 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, the most by a Hawkeye since Greg Brunner pulled down 23 in 2006.
“What you see is a guy that’s getting rebounds above the rim and he’s active,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “What he did tonight, I thought, was he made really good decisions. It wasn’t like he only got a bunch of rebounds. He knew when to kick it back out and when to go back up with it. Against this team, that’s important.”
Iowa also shifted defenses on the Panthers and kept their offense out of rhythm. UNI led 23-22 at halftime, but shot just 17.9 percent from the floor in the second half. UNI guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe dictated the game’s tempo in the first half, scoring 11 points. He scored zero points, grabbed zero rebounds, dished no assists, missed six shots and had two turnovers in the second half.
“It was staying in front of him, not worrying about trying to get a steal … just don’t give him an angle to penetrate on you and stay down on his pump fakes,” Iowa sophomore Eric May said. “He’s a crafty player. He’s going to find ways to get fouls.”
Iowa led by nine points at 37-28 before UNI’s Jake Koch hit back-to-back 3-pointers to climb within three points with 11:21 left in the game.
Then, the Panthers (4-3) went cold. UNI hit just one field goal the rest of the game — a 3-pointer by Johnny Moran — and a pair of free throws by Koch.
“I think the credit goes to Iowa’s defense,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “I thought that they did a really good job of their man-to-man, making things tough for us. They change the defenses. We’ve got a younger basketball team, but we also have (Lucas) O’Rear, Kwadzo and Johnny, and they’ve seen defenses get changed before. The credit goes to Iowa.”
Along with Cole, Iowa freshman Melsahn Basabe dominated inside, scoring a game-high 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Basabe was 6-of-8 from the floor and didn’t have a turnover.
Iowa’s win erases one of its worst losses last year, 67-50 at Cedar Falls. It was a welcome result for May, who said the team’s versatility helped this year against UNI.
“Last year left a bad taste in my mouth after that game, just really disappointed in how we played that game,” May said. “This year is the exact opposite.”