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Hawkeyes beat Panthers, reach winning mark

Posted on 08. Dec, 2010 by in Iowa Basketball

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By Brendan Stiles

HawkeyeDrive.com

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A 5-4 record after nine games might not seem like a huge deal. But it is when it comes to the Iowa men’s basketball team.

The Hawkeyes are now above .500 for the first time in two seasons after defeating Northern Iowa 51-39 on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It’s a feeling players haven’t been accustomed to, but nevertheless, one that has them beaming with pride.

“It feels really good to have a winning record right now. Can I say that we have a winning record?” Cole said with a smile. “We’re 5-4, we have a two-game winning streak. Let’s just keep working.”

It would be the play of both Cole and freshman forward Melsahn Basabe that made the biggest difference in the outcome. Basabe led the Hawkeyes in scoring with 14 points, while Cole finished with a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds.

Cole’s performance was what really stood out to Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, who said after the game that being healthy now as opposed to at the start of the season has made a difference for the 6-9 center.

“He’s a guy that takes care of his body. He has been living in the training room. Now what you see is a guy that’s getting rebounds above the rim and he’s active,” McCaffery said. What he did tonight I thought was he made really good decisions. It wasn’t like he only got a bunch of rebounds. He knew when to kick it back out and when to go back up with it.

“Against this team, that’s important.”

Iowa would jump out to a quick 16-6 lead, but the Panthers followed that up by scoring 11 unanswered points, and actually took a 23-22 edge into the locker room at halftime.

Then the Hawkeye defense really turned it up a notch.

Kwadzo Ahelegbe, who had 11 of UNI’s 23 points in the first half, would be shut out during the game’s final 20 minutes. In total, the Panthers were only able to muster 16 second half points, which came on a disgusting 5-of-28 shooting.

That was just one of a few reasons why both McCaffery and his players felt this was their best outing of the season defensively.

“I wouldn’t say tonight was so much the effort,” Basabe said. “The effort was great, but I think the coaches, they do a great job of giving us game plans, and we have been struggling to execute parts of the game plan.

“We didn’t beat ourselves.”

For nearly five minutes in the second half, Iowa was ahead 43-36 and neither team could buy a basket. That was until junior Matt Gatens nailed a 3-pointer that put UNI away for good with 2:51 left in the game.

It was the only 3-point basket Gatens had the entire evening, and this was following a 1-for-10 performance from beyond the arc last weekend against Idaho State. Yet this shot may be what finally gets Gatens over the hurdle he has faced mentally.

“He’s always a threat from 3,” sophomore forward Eric May said about Gatens. “The more confidence he gets, the more he starts knocking down shots, and the better we’re going to be.”

Now the Hawkeyes shift their attention to another in-state rival in Iowa State, who defeated Iowa last season at Hilton Coliseum in Ames. Like the Hawkeyes, the Cyclones have a first-year head coach in former player Fred Hoiberg. Tip-off is scheduled for Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. from inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and the game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

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