IOWA CITY, Iowa – This wasn’t pretty. But after a pair of tough losses, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery will take it.
Matt Gatens scored 22 points to help the Hawkeyes snap a two-game skid with an 82-72 victory over IPFW on Saturday. Zach McCabe and Bryce Cartwright each scored 12 points for the Hawkeyes (4-2), who held off a late surge from the Mastodons.
“You know we’re not satisfied because it wasn’t perfect, it was far from that,” Gatens said. “But it’s a step in the right direction. (We) still have a lot of things to work on. We gave up too many points and have some things to work on with our motion offense.”
Frank Gaines scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead IPFW (2-2), which trailed by only four with 2 minutes left. Gaines, who hit three three-pointers, played only 29 minutes because of foul trouble.
It’s the third time in as many games Iowa has struggled to defend an elite scorer. Campbell’s Eric Griffin scored 23 points Nov. 23. Creighton’s Doug McDermott had 25 on Nov. 20.
“I think that’s the thing that’s disappointing,” McCaffery said. “You can’t cover a guy that talented who has that much of a green light with one person. That’s a collective recognition.”
Iowa led by 10 points at halftime, but the Mastodons stayed close most of the second half.
A jumper by Gaines with 8:48 left cut the deficit to 59-56, but the Hawkeyes rebuilt their 10-point lead. IPFW answered again as Trey McCorkle knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:15 remaining to trim the gap to 73-69.
McCabe, who started for the first time this season for the injured Devon Archie, responded with a nice shot in the paint. After the Hawkeyes forced a stop, Devyn Marble used a pump fake to lose his defender and slashed to the hoop for a 77-69 lead. He finished with 11 points.
Gatens made two free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
The Mastodons shot nearly as well as Iowa, but the Hawkeyes scored 33 points off turnovers.
“I thought our guys played hard, but we turned it over way too much,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. “When you look at the stats, we shot 52 percent, which is a good number. But the problem is we turned the ball over 24 times, which means you don’t get as many shots as you’d like to.”
Forward Melsahn Basabe continued to struggle for the Hawkeyes.
Basabe averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds with a double-double in Iowa’s first two games as an encore to impressive freshman season. In four games since then, Basabe has a total of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The 6-foot-7 forward picked up two early fouls against IPFW and only played 11 minutes. He scored two points and grabbed four rebounds.
But four Hawkeyes scored in double figures to pick up the slack, and Iowa’s bench produced 32 points.
“We’re not completely sideways, but we’re struggling a bit more offensively,” McCaffery said. “We’re struggling a bit more defensively. But I think the good thing is different players are stepping out.”
McCorkle had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Mastodons. Hines scored 12 points.