Iowa’s men’s basketball team finished 15-17 and 5-13 in the Big Ten. In a long season, there are always highlights and not-so memorable moments, particularly in a season that featured a little of both.
Over the upcoming week, I’ll rank the top and worst moments of the season — two every day. Here are the N0. 8 and 7 best and worst moments of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season.
No. 8 Best: Emergence of Freshman Matt Gatens
Iowa's Matt Gatens (5) fights for a loose ball with Northwestern's Kevin Coble during the first half, Feb. 7, 2009, in Iowa City. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
We all knew Gatens would be a Hawkeye and a key contributor to the basketball team once he stepped in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. However his accomplishments exceeded most of the expectations for this 6-foot-6 freshman from Iowa City High.
Gatens led the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (90.4 percent) and ranked among the league leaders in 3-point percentage. He led all Big Ten freshmen in minutes played and was second in scoring at 11.1 points (just behind Ohio State’s William Buford). He was named to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team and finished just behind Buford for the Big Ten’s freshman of the year award (I, for one, voted for Gatens).
Gatens also led Iowa in minutes played with 34.1 and 1,056 total minutes, nearly 100 minutes more than Jake Kelly. He finished second on the team in scoring and hit a team-high 52 3-pointers. He also provided backbone and aggressive play, a recipe for future leadership.
Michigan guard David Merritt, bottom, contests for the ball with Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel, top, in the second half , Jan. 11, 2009, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan won 64-49. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
No. 8 Worst: Michigan manhandles Iowa, Jan. 11
Iowa was beaten in every way by Michigan with the 64-49 score hardly
showing the Wolverines’ complete domination. Iowa failed to keep Michigan off the offensive glass, identify shooters and got caught repeatedly on defensive switches where a guard was dwarfed in the post.
Players duplicated positions in setting screens and couldn’t find the open shooter. Often players looked tentative, passing up open shots. Several times the shot clock dwindled inside of five seconds only to have an Iowa player throw up a weak shot at the end of the possession.
“I just don’t think we’re comfortable out there,” Iowa sophomore guard Jake Kelly said after the game. “We want to use the shot clock and move it around and work it, but then again, I think we need to take open shots.
“In this league you’re not going to get two open opportunities. You get your first one and if you pass that up, you’re probably going to have to go with panic mode.”
No. 7 Best: Iowa halts Wisconsin in OT
Iowa's Aaron Fuller (24) blocks a shot by Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (11) during the second half, Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan was called for a technical foul after the play. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa showed its guts against Wisconsin, the first of three overtime victories for the Hawkeyes this season. After watching a five-point lead disintegrate in the final 26 seconds of regulation, Iowa’s players rebounded with tenacity in overtime to beat Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and end a three-game losing streak.
Iowa freshman Aaron Fuller completed the game’s most important play and maybe the best individual play of the season with 2:51 left in regulation. Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor stole a pass and appeared to go for an easy layup. Fuller blocked the ball at the last second and both players were sent flying past the basket. No foul was called, and Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan ran to mid-court protesting. Ryan was hit with a technical foul, and Peterson drilled four consecutive free throws as a result to give Iowa a 51-49 lead.
“I just tried to hustle back as hard as I can because every possession meant a lot, and those two points could have meant the difference in us winning and us losing,” he said. “I just got back as fast as I could and jumped up and hoped they didn’t call a foul. For a second I thought they were going to call a foul, but they didn’t, and we got the ball back. I felt that was kind of a big play.”
No. 7 Worst: 17-point loss at Wisconsin, Peterson out with hamstring injury
Iowa's Jeff Peterson, left, and Wisconsin's Joe Krabbenhoft go after a loose ball during the first half Feb. 11, 2009, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
Cyrus Tate didn’t play. Matt Gatens was slapped with a technical. Point point guard Jeff Peterson pulled his right hamstring.
Oh, and the Badgers murdered Iowa 69-52 in every possible way.
Peterson had started all 25 games up to this point, but pulled his right hamstring with about 9 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.
Iowa had 14 turnovers and couldn’t match the Badgers’ size or quickness.
“Any time you lose a basketball game it is frustrating,” Gatens said. “To have a good game against Northwestern on Saturday and come in here and not play our best isn’t what we had planned and doesn’t really feel good.”
COMING WEDNESDAY: The Nos. 6 and 5 best and worst moments for the Iowa men’s basketball team.