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Matt Gatens has Iowa playing spoiler to ranked teams

Feb 24, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

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It seems that Iowa has a bit of attendance problem. That’s why, with a Thursday night game against No. 16 Wisconsin being televised on ESPN2, the university offered so many bribes to students to try to get them to the game.

If the free tickets weren’t enough, the first 100 students got free ice cream, the first 500 students got free pizza and a rally towel and the first 2,000 students got a bobble head of Matt Gatens. And while free pizza, free ice cream and a bobble head is generally a memorable experience for any student, Gatens made sure that no one would forget about the night that his bobble head was handed out.

Gatens scored 18 of his 33 points in the first half as the Hawkeyes jumped all over Wisconsin early and held on down the stretch, winning 67-66 when Jordan Taylor banked in a meaningless three at the buzzer. In was the second straight home win over a ranked opponent, as the Hawkeyes were coming off of a 78-66 win over then No. 20 Indiana.

Gatens had 30 points in the win over the Hoosiers, hitting his last seven threes — including a four minute stretch at the end of the second half were he hit four of them. Gatens started the Wisconsin game by hitting his first five threes, meaning that not only did the senior guard go for 63 points in back-to-back upsets, he also knocked down 12 consecutive three pointers.

That’s impressive.

What’s more impressive is that there are actually people talking about the potential of Iowa — yes, Iowa — making the NCAA Tournament. Its not all that unreasonable. They now sit above Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois in the Big Ten standings. In addition to the two wins they have picked up in the last five days, the Hawkeyes have beaten No. 11 Michigan and won at Wisconsin. That’s good.

The bad?

Iowa has 13 losses right now and an RPI in the 130s heading into Thursday night. For a real chance at earning an at-large bid, Iowa needs to win their last three games of the regular season and make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.

But the fact that they even warrant discussion is a testament to the season they have had.

Oh, and those fans that got the free bobble heads?

They also go to storm the floor. I’d say that the students that took the university up on their offer got a pretty good deal.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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