IOWA CITY — Iowa’s men’s basketball team snapped a two-game slide and toppled in-state foe Drake 82-68 Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The win prevented Iowa from getting swept in in-state play for the first time, and it was the Hawkeyes’ third straight in the series. It also marked the Hawkeyes’ most complete performance this season.
"It was a focused effort," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "It wasn't perfect, but it was hard fought at both ends. We executed when we had to."
Iowa (6-5) shot 50 percent from the field during the game and sank 23-of-29 free throws. But it was the Hawkeyes’ late first-half performance that sealed the victory.
Iowa was efficient and aggressive during a 15-3 first-half run to take a 14-point halftime advantage. The Hawkeyes led 29-27 with 5:27 left in the half. Iowa sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe ignited the run with a dunk, which was then followed with a pair of Matt Gatens free throws to push Iowa’s lead to 33-27.
After Drake’s Jordan Clarke hit one of two free throws, Iowa finished the half strong. Aaron White drilled a 3-pointer to push Iowa’s lead to eight, then Gatens followed a missed 3-pointer with a tip-in to lift the Hawkeyes to a 10-point lead.
Iowa sophomore forward Zach McCabe scored on a drive to the basket and a jumper, and freshman guard Josh Oglesby passed up an open 3-point attempt but safely delivered a jumper inside the arc. Those baskets wrapped around Drake’s Jeremy Jeffers’ two free throws for the 14-point halftime lead.
Iowa kept the Bulldogs (6-4) at bay most of the of second half, despite a furious scoring effort by Drake sophomore Rayvonte Rice. After scoring just four points in the first half, Rice exploded for 19 in the second half to lead all scorers with 23 points. He kept Drake in the game throughout the second half, twice helping cut Iowa’s lead to nine points.
But the Hawkeyes closed strong, outscoring Drake on a 9-3 run that finished the game.
Gatens led all Iowa scorers with 20 points. He now sits in 16th place on Iowa’s all-time scoring list, passing Jeff Moe (1,248) with 1,258 points. Gatens also had to defend Drake's Ben Simons, who entered the game as the Bulldogs' leading scorer at 16.8 points a game. Gatens held Simson to five points and 2 of 8 from the field.
"I thought (Gatens) used his physicality well with Ben," Drake Coach Mark Phelps said.
Five different Iowa players scored in double digits.
"That's the kind of team I think we can be," McCafffery said.
The style of play was a marked contrast between the halves. There were 11 combined fouls called in the first half; there were 29 called in the second.
Drake's Jordan Clarke scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 12 minutes. But he fouled out with 9:50 left in the game.
Devyn Marble started at point guard for the third straight game, but senior Bryce Cartwright saw his most extensive action since injuring his hamstring two weeks ago. Cartwright (12 points) missed his first four shots, but rallied to hit two jumpers and sank all eight second-half free-throw attempts. He played 28 minutes after playing just six against Iowa State and none against Northern Iowa.
After the game Cartwright said he's about "85 percent" but getting treatment every day.
Iowa wraps up non-conference play this week with games against Central Arkansas (Monday) and Boise State (Thursday).[nggallery id=730]