It’s been nearly a week since the Iowa Hawkeyes have taken to the hardwood, but Fran McCaffery’s bunch was back in action Thursday as they kicked off the Las Vegas International Tournament with the first of two campus games. The Hawkeyes squared off with the North Florida Ospreys, who CR to Iowa City with a 4-1 record.
Things started off sluggish for Iowa and it looked like the Hawkeyes would be in for a battle all night long. Despite leading just 39-35 at the half, Iowa ultimately leaned on Luka Garza in the middle and utilizes their size advantage to pull away from the Ospreys in the second half to come away with an 83-68 win.
Here are our key takeaways from Thursday night in Iowa City.
Luka Garza is an All-Big Ten Player
Luka Garza did everything for the Hawkeyes tonight. He finished as the game’s leading scorer with 29 points - 1 shy of a career high. He also added 12 rebounds to mark his third double-double in four games this season. He’s now averaging 21 and 10.
Garza shot 67% from the field and was 2-2 from beyond the arc against North Florida. He also blocked 3 shots.
Luka Garza is having a great night with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals through one half of play. @IowaHoops pic.twitter.com/DQHcRJk0fi— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 22, 2019
The big man won’t be able to keep this pace up all season and we’ll no doubt see a big dip once we get I to the physical Big Ten, but Garza is so incredibly talented. His footwork is unparalleled by any other big in the conference and his ability to step outside and knock down shots makes him a matchup nightmare. He’s undoubtedly an All-Big Ten player.
Iowa’s Defense is Still an Issue
The Hawkeyes only gave up 68 to North Florida and has only averaged 74 points allowed per game, but those are not great numbers with the competition level to-date.
The Ospreys are a good shooting team and that was on full display tonight, despite a concerted effort to stop the 3-ball by the Hawkeyes. North Florida had 4 players in double figures, led by Ivan Gandhi-Rosa with 18. They also shot 41% from beyond the arc.
For Iowa, rotations are still slow. Defenders still slide under screens allowing open threes. Close outs are a step late. Guards still get beat off the dribble. Those are problems North Florida exploited for a half, but when the competition level steps up, opponents will no date score much more like DePaul than Iowa’s three other opponents.
Jordan Bohannon Isn’t Ready
Speaking of issues, Bohannon’s hip is certainly still one. It’s hard to know how much is ongoing pain and how much is missed practice and conditioning time leading up to this point, but JoBo just isn’t right yet.
Bohannon finished with just 5 points and 2 assists in 18 minutes on 2-8 shooting. He was 1-6 from beyond the arc. Admittedly, Jordan seemed to have a bit more pep in his step tonight, but the shots weren’t falling. That’s a problem for Iowa, as the team needs another perimeter threat. On the whole, the Hawkeyes shot just 27% from deep against North Florida.
If Bohannon’s issue is simply one of missed practice and conditioning, continuing to work through the pain may pay off down the home stretch. If he’s just not physically ready to be back, you have to wonder if he would be better off just shutting it down.
Joe Wieskamp is Special
We already knew this one, but Joe Wieskamp can do it all. He finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds against North Florida on 6-12 shooting. He’s a guy that just always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Wieskamp gets the alley-oop for @IowaHoops. pic.twitter.com/G1qFcEdps4— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 22, 2019
If Bohannon can’t return to full strength, there will be stretches this year where “Just Joe” will need to be the guy. Garza is a force in the middle, but JW will be critical on the outside in creating space for the bugs to operate and getting big buckets in crunch time. He seems fully up to the task.
Joe Toussaint is a Future Star
I’ve been conducting the Joe Toussaint hype train since the New York-native committed you Iowa, but it’s time you all hop aboard. As I’ve said from the beginning, this kid has a different gear than we’ve seen under Fran McCaffery.
That was on full display Thursday night as Toussaint finished with 10 points and 4 assists in 19 minutes of work. In his time on the floor, he was constantly probing the North Florida defense and made some incredible finishes in traffic and through contact.
Joe Toussaint gets the roll &1 for @IowaHoops.#BTNStandout x @AutoOwnersIns pic.twitter.com/hmQ2sfYnTW— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 22, 2019
The freshman also has some ridiculous no-look passes, including one to Garza that would’ve been a Sportscenter Top 10 nominee if an Osprey hadn’t opted to foul Luka. The kid’s going to have some ups and downs as he learns the college game, but he is Iowa basketball’s Tyler Goodson. He brings something to the team nobody else does and he’s going to be a star before he leaves campus.
This Team is Making Progress, but Needs to Make Strides
On the whole, this team is making progress. They put up 83 against North Florida and they could have easily topped 100. The Hawks shot an abysmal 27% from three, led by the aforementioned Bohannon’s 1-6 performance. Despite that, they got open looks when they wanted them and missed a number of easy shots from close range.
Offense shouldn’t be a problem, particularly if Bohannon can be the shooter we’ve seen in the past. The questions, as always, will be on defense. There are glimpses of hope. Grad transfer Bakari Evelyn and Toussaint are solid perimeter defenders, as is CJ Frederick. Wieskamp isn’t a liability. But the rotations are what we’ve come to expect and that won’t cut it in Big Ten play.
Expect a roller coaster the rest of the way with some pleasant surprises when shots are falling and some head-scratching losses when the hoop seems to have a lid on it.
Luka Garza goes for 29 as @IowaHoops cruises in the second half.— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 22, 2019
Highlights from tonight's win: pic.twitter.com/X2v7Ie0TwI
The Hawkeyes move to 3-1 with the win Thursday. They’ll be back in action for the second campus game of the Las Vegas International Tournament on Saturday as they host Cal Poly at 4pm. You can catch that one on BTN.