July 12, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Our countdown of the 10 top Iowa men's basketball games from 2011-12 continues today with a look back at Iowa's 67-66 victory over No. 15 Wisconsin on Feb. 23 on Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The win was Iowa's second over the Badgers in 2011-12, completing its first season sweep over the Badgers since 1995.
Matt Gatens set a career high for points scored for the second straight game by netting 33, a total that included a pair of free throws with 3.8 ticks left on the clock that gave Iowa a four-point lead and a wire-to-wire victory. The senior from Iowa City sank seven 3-pointers inside his 12 field goals in 39 minutes of game action on - what else? - Matt Gatens Bobblehead Night.
"There's nobody playing better than Matt Gatens in the country right now," McCaffery said flatly and definitively during his postgame visit with the Hawkeye Radio Network. "He's a real intelligent basketball player and a substantially better basketball player than anyone gives him credit. He special, very special."
Gatens made his first five 3-pointers of the contest, which extended his consecutive streak to 12 dating back to the previous contest against Indiana where he made his last seven. The 12 straight triples is an Iowa record. The senior has drained a combined 14 triples the last two games, which is the most ever by a Hawkeye in a two-game span.
The Hawkeyes sank 10 triples to Wisconsin's 6... and Wisconsin entered the game as the nation's leader in 3-point defense. Iowa also won because of its defense: the Hawkeyes forced the Badgers into a season-high 13 turnovers.
"That's a very difficult team to beat. They turn the ball over 13 times, that's the most they turn it over this year. They don't turn it over. They out-rebound us. We out rebounded them up there," McCaffery said.
"We made more threes, the others were pretty even. I thought we really fought. I thought Melsahn's blocks in the second half were huge for us."
Iowa pushed a 9-point halftime edge to 13 when White sank the second of two free throws to move the score to 49-36 with a little more than 17 minutes to play. Wisconsin countered with a 12-2 run sparked by its second-stringers and capped by a 3-pointer by Ben Brust. That bucket cut the margin to 51-48 with 12:46 left to play.
But the Hawkeyes responded...or should we say Gatens responded. First with a jumper...then a three...then another three which was followed by a nice touchdown pass from Bryce Cartwright to a streaking Aaron White for two more to put the home team up 63-52.
That, however, was Iowa's last field goal of the contest. McCaffery gave Iowa's crowd of 14,000-plus credit for helping to carry the Hawkeyes to victory.
"The Hawks Nest was great, but how about the season ticket holders who are here every game? I've said it before, the loyalty of Hawk fans is unmatched. Our fans were big tonight. The place was electric."
Gatens walked onto the court still feelin' it from his career-high 30 point performance against Indiana the previous outing. The senior lit up the Badgers for 18 points before the break on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, numbers that included a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc.
Gatens wasn't the only Hawkeye hot from behind the line, however. McCabe had a pair including the game-opener and Roy Devyn Marble added one. Iowa sank 7-of-10 shots from the behind the arc, and 16 of 28 from the field en route to a 43-34 lead at intermission.
The Hawkeyes' field goal percent was boosted by a pair of thunderous dunks by Melsahn Basabe and 3-of-4 shooting by White. Iowa's offense was a by-product of its defensive intensity: The Hawkeyes forced 11 Wisconsin turnovers, were credited with five steals, and notched a pair of blocks during the first 20 minutes.
The Badgers kept the game within reach by matching Iowa's field goal success at 57 percent - but had five fewer 3-pointers - and with a 15-11 edge on the boards.
Watch the highlights of the Hawkeyes' thrilling home triumph over nationally-ranked Wisconsin by clicking HERE.
Check back next week as we look back at the third-best game.