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Gatens a bright spot in defeat

BY BRENDAN STILES | DECEMBER 14, 2009 7:30 AM

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AMES — As Matt Gatens walked off the Hilton Coliseum hardwood with the rest of his teammates following Iowa’s loss to Iowa State, the dejection was evident.

For the second time in four days, the Iowa men’s basketball team lost a road game to an in-state rival by double digits. The 81-71 defeat to the Cyclones on Dec. 11 dropped Iowa to 3-7 overall as the players, along with every other student on the UI campus, prepare for finals before playing Drake on Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

But the loss wasn’t a result of lack in effort, especially from Gatens. The sophomore from Iowa City played all 40 minutes of Iowa’s game against Iowa State and led the Hawkeyes in scoring with 20 points.

The performance came after leading Iowa with 18 points in a 67-50 loss on Dec. 8 at Northern Iowa.
However, as he sat answering questions from the press after losing to Iowa State, it was clear the frustration had mounted. Losing had begun to take a toll.

“When that final buzzer hits, everything hits you, and it’s tough taking a loss like that,” Gatens said. “A rival like Iowa State, a team I grew up cheering against. It was my first time playing in here, and it was a great environment to play in, but it’s frustrating to come out on the bottom end.”



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His outings against the two in-state rivals were bright spots in what had otherwise been a tumultuous week for the Hawkeyes. It began on Dec. 5, when head coach Todd Lickliter underwent an operation to repair a tear in his carotid artery.

The surgery has sidelined him since, with associate head coach Chad Walthall taking over.

Then, shortly after the Hawkeyes’ loss to Northern Iowa, a blizzard that hit the entire state kept the Hawks in Cedar Falls an extra day before they could return to Iowa City.

Add to it that this team then almost immediately hit the road to meet the Cyclones in Hilton Coliseum, then saw Iowa State junior Craig Brackins impose his will en route to a 28-point evening, and obstacles seem to have come at the Hawkeyes left and right.

Players credit the leadership of teammates such as Gatens for helping them get through the circumstances Iowa has faced over the past week.

“Their leadership has been great. They’ve taught all the young people how to handle adversity,” freshman Brennan Cougill said. “With Coach not being here and then getting snowed in, we were calm, and they kept our vision straight and made sure we stay on a straight path.”

As the team continues to get through the season, it will continue to rely heavily on the services of Gatens — all while finding ways to win as opposed to losing, like the Hawkeyes have the past couple of contests.

“Matt is one of our key leaders,” Walthall said. “Anytime you have something happen the way it’s happened the last week, just the craziness of it all, I think as a team and as a staff, you have to kind of bind together that much tighter because your leader is gone.

“Matt took it upon himself to take on more of that role.”


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