The Iowa State Cyclones (1-2) unearthed the gameplan to stop Luka Garza: keep him off the court.
The #3 Iowa Hawkeyes (5-0) used an incredible second half stretch by the big man to win 105-77.
Two first half fouls limited Garza to seven minutes and the Cyclones proceeded where he still put up nine points as Jack Nunge took over the lion’s share of filling in for the All-American with 15 points on 6/7 shooting in the half. Joe Wieskamp added 12 and looked assertive on the offensive end getting into the lane and drawing fouls.
Without Garza and poor shooting from deep (3/15), Iowa still scored 52 points and led by 11.
The second half, whoa boy, the second half. Garza got a third foul early and tapped into something while Fran McCaffery sat him for the mandatory cooling off period. There are debates for later days about how Fran manages his personnel amidst foul trouble, but today is not the day.
Garza returned to the floor and proceeded to score 21 straight points for Iowa which stretched a 13-point lead where the Cyclones were using their athleticism and streaky shooting to keep things within reach to 25-point lead which put the game out of reach in a shade over six minutes.
LG leaned on his three point shot and offensive rebounding throughout the stretch, putting into action all of those empty gym clips his father Frank shared to Twitter over the summer.
What Garza did tonight borders on unbelievable. He went 10/10 in the second half, 5/5 from three in just 10 minutes of play. He was 13/14 on the game for 34 points and had just three rebounds (all offensive).
Performances like this are why he came back.
Revisiting the questions
Can Iowa avoid the let down? From a results perspective, Iowa certainly did. You take a 28-point win over a rival every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But there were certainly moments where Iowa relented.
An 9-2 game-opening run was quickly eliminated after an early Steve Prohm was quickly neutralized. Iowa settled for too many threes (Jordan Bohannon and Connor McCaffery were a combined 1/10 from deep). Joe Toussaint joined Luka Garza on the bench with first half foul trouble.
But really, there are few teams who can fill it up like Iowa and they kept the pedal to the metal tonight.
Does Garza regain his footing? See headline.
What happens if the shots aren’t falling? Though Iowa leaned a little too much on the three, they did a solid job sticking to the offensive glass (they had 14 on 31 missed shots 45%) with Nunge leading the way with six.
They were active on defense, forcing 17 turnovers (six steals) and scoring 26 points off of them. They were constantly moving the ball, searching for Garza but also any open shot and ended up with 20 assists (Joe T led the way with seven). Keegan Murray did Keegan Murray things and had to fill in at the 5 throughout some stretches of the first half with a “fouled out” Garza and gassed Nunge.
Perhaps most indicative of Iowa’s assertiveness on offense was how CJ Fredrick and Wieskamp lived behind the three point line against North Carolina but attack ISU’s defensive interior today, going a combined 9/13 from two.
It was a good night.