IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery had high praise for guard Matt Gatens after the senior posted a career high in points and 3-pointers Sunday against Indiana.
“We played well against Indiana, primarily it was the play of Matt Gatens, who I think right now is playing as well as anybody in the league,” McCaffery said Monday. “His performance (Sunday) at both ends of the floor was as good as any I’ve seen since I’ve been here. I think that will make a big difference for us as we go down the stretch.”
Gatens, a 6-foot-5 Iowa City native, scored a career-high 30 points Sunday in a 78-66 upset win against No. 18 Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Gatens drilled seven 3-pointers and made his last five 3-point attempts in the second half.
Gatens connected on four 3-pointers on five consecutive Iowa trips up the court. That ended a 9-0 Indiana run and boosted a tenuous 52-42 Iowa lead to 19 points.
“That gave us a little bit of breathing room, then he got confidence and then we got confidence,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Our defense perked up after that, and then he just kept going.”
“Matt Gatens, who was the most determined player on the floor, in my opinion, the whole day anyway, took it to another level,” Indiana Coach Tom Crean said. “Sometimes with guys on him, and sometimes when we were a step late but he got extremely hot and it broke our backs in the sense of coming back.”
Gatens’ performance comes off Iowa’s 69-64 loss at Penn State where Gatens also connected on five consecutive 3-point attempts to help Iowa cut a 16-point deficit to two points late in the second half.
Gatens has averaged 20.5 points in the second half of his last two games and has made 11-of-13 3-point attempts in those halves.
As a senior, Gatens said there’s a sense of urgency to finish his career strong.
“You try to give it your all all the time but this really is the last time,” Gatens said. “It’s kind of, you see it, you see it on the schedule. You want to make the most of it.”
Gatens averages 14.8 points a game and is on pace to lead Iowa in scoring for the third straight season. He has 216 3-pointers in his career, third-best all-time in Iowa history. He now has 1,503 points, surpassing Jeff Horner for 12th on Iowa’s scoring list. He’s 13 points behind Greg Brunner and 19 points shy of Don Nelson for 10th.
Gatens’ effort wasn’t good enough to earn the Big Ten Player of the Week award, however. Michigan State’s Draymond Green, who clearly has established himself as the league’s top player, averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in two games last week. It’s Green’s third award in the last four weeks.
Jake Kelly is the last Iowa player to earn Big Ten player of the week, claiming the spot on March 9, 2009.
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