IOWA CITY — Matt Gatens accepted his framed jersey to rousing applause in his final game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Gatens was one of four Iowa seniors — including Bryce Cartwright, Devon Archie and Andrew Brommer — waving goodbye the fan base. But Gatens is the most recognizable with his Iowa City roots and 124 career starts. His Iowa home career — at least in the regular season — ended with a 70-66 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. It was a tough defeat for Gatens with both the pregame emotion and finality of the moment.
“It is disappointing,” Gatens said. “I wanted to go out with a win; all of the seniors did for the fact that you just want that memory and you want to go 9-9 in the conference and take that seven spot (in the Big Ten Tournament).”
Gatens finished with 17 points and now has 1,591 in his career, seventh-most in Iowa history. He’s 20 points shy of tying Jess Settles for sixth. But scoring never was Gatens’ hallmark, and Saturday he was thrust into his usual role as defensive stopper. Gatens almost exclusively guarded Northwestern’s John Shurna, the Big Ten’s scoring leader. Gatens gave up four inches but held Shurna to nine points.
“It’s not easy with the continuous movement and he’s a big, he’s athletic, and he’s smart,” Gatens said. “You just try to stay between him and the ball, right between him and the hoop as much as possible.”
Gatens’ effort impressed Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery.
“It was epic, is what it was,” McCaffery said. “The effort level that it took to do what he did against a guy who is 6-9 was just one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. At the same time to go get 17, you’re not coming out of the game, you can’t ask for anything more from him on a very special day.”Gatens also grabbed four rebounds, dished three assists and had one steal — with no turnovers — in 38 minutes.