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Gatens, Iowa finally get a taste of postseason play

[ 0 ] March 12, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Matt Gatens and Kevin Dillard have squared off before. Gatens played his AAU basketball for Martin Brothers. Dillard played for the Chicago-based MeanStreets program.

“They had a good team, and he’s a really good point guard,” Gatens said.

The two meet again at 6:30 p.m. today when Iowa (17-16) hosts Dayton (20-12) in a National Invitation Tournament first-round game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Gatens leads the Hawkeyes in scoring with a 15.7-point average. He was a second-team all-Big Ten selection. Dillard, who played his first two seasons at Southern Illinois and was Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year in 2009, leads the Flyers at 13 points a game. He was a second-team all-Atlantic 10 selection.

Dillard plays a key role on a team that tied for fifth in the Atlantic 10 standings. Dayton is making its 24th NIT appearance, the second-most of any program. The Flyers have won the NIT title three times, most recently in 2010.

“Archie Miller is one of the great young coaches in college basketball, and he’s got a tremendous staff,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of his 33-year-old rival. “They’ve got great quickness. They shoot a ton of 3s and make them. Twenty wins in the Atlantic-10, with as good a league as that is, is quite a statement.”

Dayton attempted 720 3-pointers this season, and shot 34.4 percent. By comparison, Iowa shot 501 3s and shot 36.9 percent. The Flyers averaged 71.9 points a game, Iowa 71.7. Dayton is second nationally in free throw percentage, .778.

Senior forward Chris Johnson is the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.6 points a game. Coming off the bench is Drake transfer Josh Parker. The senior guard is averaging 8.7 points a game. He played on the Bulldogs’ 2007-08 Missouri Valley Conference championship team.

“I’ve had Josh one year, and I can’t really say there’s a guy that I’ve been around that’s more coachable,” Miller said.

Iowa is in its first postseason game since 2006. After Gatens, Iowa’s next five leading scorers are freshmen or sophomores.

“It’s a positive step for where we’re headed,” said McCaffery, who inherited a 10-win team in the spring of 2010. “To be able to play in a prestigious tournament like the NIT with the young team we have bodes well for the future.”

Miller, a former Ohio State assistant and the brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, said his team has work to do today.

“(McCaffery) is a terrific coach, and I know they’ll probably have a lot of momentum moving forward,” Miller said. <EL,3><EL,3>

An Iowa grand slam: This is the first time that the state’s four Division I men’s programs have received postseason bids in the same season.

Northern Iowa plays at St. Joseph’s Wednesday, also in the NIT. Iowa State meets Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Louisville, Ky. And Drake hosts North Dakota in the CIT Wednesday.

Three teams have made it to postseason play in the same season twice. Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa all played in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. And Iowa and Iowa State played in the NCAA and Drake in the NIT in 1986.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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