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Iowa 79, Cincinnati 72: Luka Does it

That was fun this is fun!

Iowa v Cincinnati Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Luka Garza led all players with 20 points to go along with 7 rebounds to surge Iowa in its 79-72 win over Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

A miserable start for the Iowa basketball team led the squad into a deep dark hole that the Hawkeyes would never crawl out of... is what I had written two hours ago.

Instead, the Hawkeyes took a 13 pound deficit, absorbed blows, and fought like the Iowa team we saw in January and February to give us probably their most impressive performance of the year.

Two quick baskets for the Bearcats set up 5 straight points from Isaiah Moss to give Iowa a 5-4 lead. It would be Iowa’s only lead of the half.

Cincinnati went on to score 12 unanswered points. The Bearcats were bigger and faster and stronger than Iowa at this time. It was kinda like the Monstars vs. Bill Murray, and the fact Iowa was able to overcome this deficit is a testament to their conditioning and discipline.

During this run, two quick fouls for Tyler Cook inspired a lineup change that pulled all the starters save for Jordan Bohannon. At a time when Iowa needed to score, its offense couldn’t muster any points. It was an interesting coaching decision indeed. And at the time, I felt like gouging my eyes out.

This is when Iowa got down 13. But the Hawkeyes battled. Luka Garza eventually got back int, which was good, because was the only Iowa player who could handle Nysier Brooks and Tre Scott. He fought under the rim and his 10 first half points are a reflection of how his hustle overachieved. He even hit a three a pretty critical time to cut the Bearcat lead to single digits. He couldn’t help with Bearcat point guard Justin Jenifer, though. He had 12 first half points and was a constant headache for Iowa on both ends of the floor.

Still, for as outclassed as Iowa looked, the Hawkeyes were able to end the half with optimism. A Garza putback preceded Joe Wieskamp going coast-to-coast after a defensive stop. Wieskamp then nailed a 3 from his korner. A Wieskamp rebound on a missed Jarron Cumberland jumper with 18 seconds left allowed Jordan Bohannon to weave through the defense to float one in as time expired. Iowa ended the half on a 9-2 run to make the score 36-31, and it felt damn lucky to only be down 5.

The second half favored Iowa after Cook was quickly whistled for his third foul, ironically enough. Ryan Kriener came in and scored a quick 4 points before Bohannon hit a three to give Iowa its second lead of the game, at 40-39. Jarron Cumberland immediately went on to drain a three at the top of the key to wrestle the lead away, but the two teams would exchange blows for the remainder of the game.

A pair of baskets from Garza set up a Connor McCaffery three to give Iowa the lead once again at 53-52 with 11 minutes to go. Bohannon then seemed to put the game on his shoulders a little bit.

Down 2, he weaved past Cane Broome to draw a foul. He missed the free throw, but helped find Joe Wieskamp later on in the corner to nail another three before another made Baer 3 to spark a 9-2 run for Iowa on a 62-59 that would eventually lead to the Bearcats’ demise. Bohannon ended the game with a relatively quiet 13 points, but he had 5 loud rebounds and 4 assists to 2 turnovers. He was Iowa’s most reliable ballhandler and the offense simply does not work without him.

When Iowa couldn’t go low with Bohannon, it found Garza on high, as the sophomore bullied his way into the box score. He led all scorers at the end of the game with 20 points to go along with 7 boards; he was just as effective on the defensive end.

The Bearcats had 9 offensive rebounds in the first half, and just 3 in the second half. With Cook on the bench much of the game, Garza and Kriener held down the fort. With five minutes to go in the game, Garza drew the fifth foul on Brooks, sending the center to the bench. Garza drew another foul immediately after Brooks’ departure, sinking a free throw to give Iowa a 3 point lead

In the end, an 18-5 run in Iowa’s favor put the dagger into Cincinnati. Every time the Bearcats clawed, Iowa had an answer. Six unanswered points for Iowa while Cincy was fouling shut the door, and Iowa will play the winner of Tennessee-Colgate on Sunday.

Iowa is still playing meaningful basketball. In March. This is a good thing.