The Iowa Hawkeyes (6-5) didn’t go 0-3 against in-state teams after losing by double-digits to both Iowa State and Northern Iowa last week. After a seven-day break to take finals, Iowa took advantage of Drake Bulldog (6-4) mistakes to score in transition and rode a solid 20-point effort from Matt Gatens to a fairly easy 14-point win.
The team was sloppy at times in the second half, letting the the Bulldogs slip to within single digit points, but the game was really decided in the first when Iowa went on a rare 15-2 run and strode into the locker room with a comfortable 44-30 lead. During that stretch, Iowa shot almost 60 percent from the field, grabbed 21 rebounds, and held Drake to below 40 percent shooting. Fans can probably count on one hand the number of times Iowa has went on a run of that magnitude against a memorable opponent the last couple of years. Drake was a potentially dangerous team with a true go-to scorer in Ben Simon and an upset win over Iowa State on their resume. But it’s important to remember that they are still Drake, a usually middling Missouri Valley Conference squad and one in which Iowa holds a dominate 29-3 all-time record over at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In the past, a victory over Drake was not cause for celebration, but for this young and struggling Hawks team a hard-fought, well-executed victory over anyone is a pretty big deal.
Keno Davis called the game for the Big Ten Network, which could have been taken as a positive sign for either squad seeing as his father was perhaps the most successful Iowa basketball coach in the program’s history and how Keno coached Drake to an MVC conference title and NCAA tournament appearance a few years ago. The crowd was sparse yet energetic at the outset; scheduling an entertaining in-state contest the day after finals end at the university is a dumb decision not likely to draw in many students. Especially if the basketball team is 5-5. Nobody is going to stick around for that.
As previously stated, it was a good win for the team’s ever-flailing confidence, but Drake is no powerhouse. Gatens continued his steak of playing well against teams of inferior athleticism, as he will undoubtedly face tougher pressure and more difficult shots in the weeks to come. He did play stellar defense on Simon, however, holding the usual 16 points-per-game scorer scoreless at the half and to five points total. Bryce Cartwright didn’t start but returned from a hamstring injury to look as healthy and active as he has in weeks, scoring 12 points off the bench and going 8-8 from the free throw line. Freshmen Aaron White and Josh Oglesby also contributed a combined 15 points off the pine, valuable scoring that aided in Iowa’s big first-half run. White is a talented basketball player with confidence and skills, but he has been out of control and athletically overmatched playing in the paint recently. It was nice to see his versatile skill-set come together. Zach McCabe took advantage of his starting role once again, pouring in an always solid eight points and innumerable hustle plays.
Basabe also continued his steady streak of emerging from the early season slump, putting in 10 points on an efficient shooting percentage. Devyn Marble scored 10 as well in a starting role. The two show an excellent, developing chemistry on the court, evident in a beautiful hook pass from a driving Marble to Basabe for a thunderous slam in the first half outburst. The ever-disappearing Eric May scored 3 points on free throws but nullified his impact with foul trouble and tentative play. If this team wants to put its best players on the floor each night, it’s time to bench May, as Fran did toward the second half of last season, to start both Cartwright and Marble at the same time. This aggressive, fast-break lineup would give Iowa it’s best chance to score and win for the rest of the season. May is an incredible athlete, but it means nothing if he isn’t using it on the basketball court.