Gatens back with bang in Prime Time

BY CLARK CAHILL | JULY 07, 2009 7:20 AM

It isn’t always easy to come back from a two-week break and perform at a high level, especially after having surgery. But Iowa sophomore-to-be Matt Gatens proved it’s possible Monday night in Prime Time play.

After having his appendix removed June 21, the Iowa City native tallied 32 points and grabbed six rebounds for Jill Armstrong of Lepic-Kroeger Realtors in a 100-81 rout of L.L. Pelling/Iowa City Ready Mix.

“It felt good. It’s just a process of getting back to where I was before, getting my legs back, getting my strength back,” Gatens said. “I got a little bit tired toward the end, but that’s just something that you know is going to happen, because you haven’t done anything for two weeks.”

He made it look as though the break had no ill effect on his game — he shot 11-for-17 from the field, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range.

“He didn’t lose himself,” Iowa junior Jarryd Cole of Pelling/Ready Mix said. “He played really well tonight, so big ups to him on the victory.”

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Armstrong head coach Dan Ahrens said he didn’t know what to expect from Gatens, but that didn’t stop him from pushing the Iowa City native during his first night back — he kept the guard in for the entire game.

“I was pretty surprised at how well he played,” Ahrens said. “He got really tired in the second half, but I think he needs to play. He needs to get the stamina back, and we don’t play Wednesday night, so there was no reason to take him out.”

Gatens led the way in the first half, scoring 15 points as Armstrong took a 43-33 lead into halftime.

Armstrong soon jumped out to a 14-point lead early in the second half and appeared to be in control of the game. But Pelling/ Ready Mix still had some gas in the tank, and it closed the gap to single digits at 68-59 after a 3-pointer from Caleb Recker with 10:15 left in regulation.

But Armstrong had an immediate answer; Gatens drilled a 3-pointer, and former Radford College player Nick McFarlin followed with a lay-up.

Pelling/Ready Mix closed the gap to within 10 points several times and made one last push after former Hawkeye Jason Price hit a 3-pointer to cut Armstrong’s lead to 79-72 with 6:45 left.

But it was Gatens’ night, and he proceeded to nail another 3-pointer.

“We let down a little bit and didn’t get back on defense a couple of times,” Gatens said. “We just brushed it off and came back down, and hit a couple of 3s right back at them, and we did a great job finishing at the end.”

Cole said he felt his team’s effort was there, but when it came to stopping Armstrong from scoring, the team couldn’t come through.

“We could contain them for a little while, but we just couldn’t make them come to a complete stop,”he said.

Cole led Pelling/Ready Mix, posting a double-double with 25 points and 15 rebounds, but he struggled at the free-throw line, shooting only 3-for-8 from the charity stripe.

“I’m trying to get points any way I can, and if I go strong to the hole, I’m bound to get a call sooner or later,” he said. “I just have to capitalize on free throws.”

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