INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Gatens remained composed but a little stunned in the Iowa locker room Friday afternoon.
Gatens’ Hawkeyes suffered a 92-75 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten quarterfinals Friday. Gatens may never pull on the No. 5 jersey again for the Hawkeyes, and the thought was difficult for the Iowa City native to accept.
“You can’t really prepare for it,” Gatens said. “I didn’t know when it would be. I hope to keep playing, but it’s difficult. You don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. I wanted to play (Saturday) here. That was the goal, but we ran into a tough team.”
Top-seeded Michigan State (25-7) battered Gatens and the Hawkeyes (17-16) throughout much of the game with physical, yet efficient play. On nearly every Iowa offensive possession a Michigan State defender chipped Gatens as he tried to get open. He didn’t take a shot until 10 minutes, 37 seconds were left in the first half.
It was a familiar style of defense for Gatens, one that the Spartans employed in a 95-61 win against Iowa on Jan. 10.
“We expected that coming in because that’s what we saw over there,” Gatens said. “That’s what they’re known for, playing physical defense. They did a good job. We had a few good things set up trying to run and use myself as a screener and things like that. They’re a tough team to combat; they came ready.”
Gatens scored 10 points, the fewest since Jan. 7. Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo praised Brandon Wood for his defensive performance on Gatens.
“I told Wood, I gave him a little star at the end, pasted it on his melon here,” Izzo said.
“I don’t think Gatens was quite as fresh as he was (Thursday). So it was probably a combination.”
Gatens now has 1,621 points, and passed Jess Settles for sixth place all-time on Iowa’s scoring list. He averaged 15.7 points a game this season. As both walked off the court after the game, Izzo congratulated Gatens.
“He said he was going to miss playing against me, he was going to miss having me in the league,” Gatens said. “You appreciate guys like that. I just told him the same thing. I’ll miss it. He’s a guy I always looked up to, I’ve enjoyed playing against him and I appreciate him saying that.”
Entering an Iowa locker room for possibly the final time had a surreal feel for Gatens, who was voted second-team all-Big Ten by league media.“I was just thinking about the past four years and how much I’m going to miss it,” he said. “I appreciate the fans and the coaches all shaking my hand and my teammates. That’s what it’s all about. I wanted to thank them for what they’ve done for me. It’s tough.”