EUGENE, Ore. — Matt Gatens’ final game as an Iowa Hawkeye ended Sunday in disappointment, but he left a legacy of perseverance and dignity.
Gatens, a senior from Iowa City, scored seven points in a 108-97 loss to Oregon in a second-round National Invitation Tournament game Sunday. He closes his career with 1,635 points, good enough for sixth in Iowa history. He also ranks one of only two Iowa players to score more than 1,600 points, grab 400 rebounds, dish 250 assists and snag 125 steals.
Gatens also fought through three of Iowa’s losingest seasons to deliver a month’s worth of heroics and guide the Hawkeyes into their first postseason since 2006. He started every game he played for Iowa (128) and missed only two because of thumb surgery.
“Matt Gatens is one of the greatest Hawks of all-time,” said second-year Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “I’ll always remember him. His Indiana and Wisconsin games — we beat two teams in the top 15 — and he goes for 30 (points) and 33. It was incredible, and we just rode his performance.
“It was his character, his leadership that for a coach that’s coming in year one and year two, and anything short of that it’s a much more difficult rebuild.”
Gatens left the court showing little emotion and walked out of the locker room with the same expression. He spoke with Iowa’s younger players about the future but admitted taking off his jersey for the final time was personally difficult.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You look forward to that next practice, that next game and you realize it’s over. I kind of went through that once before (in the Big Ten Tournament); we had another chance. We played again. Now it’s really over. I’m just thankful to play with these guys and these coaches, and it’s been an incredible experience.
“It’s been one of the greatest memories of my life.”
Seniors Bryce Cartwright and Andrew Brommer also played their final games for Iowa. Brommer entered the program at the same time as Gatens. He saw action in 103 games and played three minutes Sunday. He had off-season knee surgery and sprained the same knee in October.
“We didn’t know if he’d be able to play at all,” McCaffery said. “He just kept plugging away and plugging away. His attitude and work ethic and he came up huge in so many games in the last two years.”
Cartwright was a junior-college transfer and stepped in as Iowa’s floor leader early in his junior season. He led the Big Ten in assists during league action that year but struggled through multiples illnesses and injuries and with inconsistency at times this year.
During Iowa’s two NIT games, Cartwright nearly was flawless. He scored 12 points and had 10 assists with four steals and only two turnovers in 33 minutes against Oregon. He had 11 assists and only two turnovers against Dayton in the NIT opener last Tuesday.
“He’s done a great job the last two or three games of distributing the ball,” Iowa sophomore Devyn Marble said. “One of the better point guards that I’ve played with in my career as a player at any level. He did a great job of finding me (Sunday), and he’s been doing it all year. That’s Bryce we were hoping to have all season long, but due to injury it kind of slowed him up a little bit.”
Cartwright was one of McCaffery’s first recruits at Iowa.
“Bryce said yes to me when he barely knew me,” McCaffery said. “I always remember that. Here’s a guy who wanted a chance to play in the Big Ten and I needed a point guard and it just worked. It worked for the two of us, and I’m proud of him.”
“He just engineered our offense. Right away when they came after us with that press, he just went right through it and they had to take it off.”
Iowa’s fourth senior, Devon Archie, did not make the trip and was attending to a family issue in Indianapolis.
Marble 10-15 4-4 31, McCabe 3-6 1-2 8, White 7-17 7-8 22, Gatens 3-10 0-0 7, Cartwright 6-11 0-0 12, Olaseni 0-1 0-0 0, Basabe 8-13 1-1 17, Oglesby 0-1 0-0 0, Brommer 0-1 0-0 0, May 0-4 0-0 0, Stokes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-79 13-15 97.
Jacob 2-2 0-0 4, Singler 9-10 4-4 25, Woods 3-4 0-0 6, Sim 4-10 4-4 15, Joseph 5-10 2-2 15, Ashaolu 7-10 8-11 22, Loyd 1-4 0-0 2, Nared 0-1 0-0 0, Emory 4-8 10-11 19. Totals 35-59 28-32 108.Halftime_Iowa 51-47. 3-Point Goals_Iowa 10-22 (Marble 7-8, McCabe 1-1, White 1-5, Gatens 1-7, May 0-1), Oregon 10-23 (Singler 3-4, Sim 3-6, Joseph 3-7, Emory 1-3, Nared 0-1, Loyd 0-2). Fouled Out_Basabe, McCabe. Rebounds_Iowa 36 (Basabe, White 8), Oregon 32 (Emory 7). Assists_Iowa 19 (Cartwright 10), Oregon 26 (Joseph 8). Total Fouls_Iowa 23, Oregon 16. A_8,647.