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Men's hoops buckles down for win

BY SETH ROBERTS | DECEMBER 08, 2010 7:10 AM

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Fans who attended Tuesday's men's basketball game expecting high-flying action went home disappointed.

Instead of flashy offense, the Iowa men's basketball team (5-4) buckled down and played its best defense of the year to shut down Northern Iowa (4-3), 51-39, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday night.

"It certainly wasn't a thing of beauty," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. "[But] defensively, it was without question the most consistent 40 minutes we've had."

The defense allowed the Hawkeyes to post their first winning record since Feb. 22, 2009, in McCaffery's ninth game in charge of the team. It also made up for offensive production more reminiscent of the Todd Lickliter era than the fast pace McCaffery is known for.

While Iowa scored just two points on the fast break, though, the Hawks dominated the Panthers in the paint. The Hawkeyes beat UNI, 26-8, in points in the lane and out-rebounded the team from Cedar Falls, 40-37.

A good chunk of those rebounds came courtesy of senior forward Jarryd Cole, who posted a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds β€” the most for an Iowa player since Greg Brunner pulled down 23 against Minnesota in 2006.

"Credit it to the in-state rivalry," Cole said. "I just wanted to come out and play hard. The fans supported us, and I wanted to give them my best shot. The team wanted to do that, and we definitely did."

Cole wasn't the only Iowa frontcourt player to have a career night: Freshman forward Melsahn Basabe finished with a game-high 14 points and seven rebounds, and he said he felt more comfortable than he has in previous games.

Panther head coach Ben Jacobson said the frontcourt's play made the difference in a physical and emotional game in which both teams endured long stretches of cold shooting.

"All of their guys that are playing inside for them β€” [Andrew] Brommer, [Zach] McCabe, and [Cole and Basabe] β€” are really active and really aggressive," Jacobson said. "They were able to go up and get some basketballs off some missed shots, and that certainly helped them get some points on the board."

While the frontcourt dominated throughout the game, a guard that struck the killing blow. Shooting guard Matt Gatens nailed a 3-pointer from the right sideline with 2:51 left.

Gatens' shot put Iowa up by 10 points and sent UNI into damage-control mode. It was also the only 3-pointer he made all night, as he continues to struggle to find his shooting stroke after having surgery on his left hand before the season.

Even with Gatens' dagger and the defensive effort, the team is reluctant to consider the victory a turning point in the season. McCaffery said the goal is to find ways to win every game, not just "benchmark" games, and Basabe stressed the youth of the season.

"It's still early," he said. "It's a good win, but I don't want to rush the whole season. We still have to stay focused. We have Iowa State on Friday, and we have the meat of our schedule as the Big Ten approaches.

"You always want to stay aware of what's ahead. There are still a lot of games ahead."


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