Garza soars past Southern

Iowa senior Luka Garza (55) clears out space in the paint against the Southern Jaguars on the way to a 41-point effort in a 103-76 win for the fifth-ranked Hawkeye men's basketball team at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY — It wasn't quite a day unlike any other in the history of the Iowa men's basketball program.

In fact, it wasn't even a day unlike any Luka Garza has had in his storied Hawkeye career. The senior settled for his second-best single-game scoring effort, finishing the second game of the season with 41 points in fifth-ranked Iowa's 103-76 win over Southern University.

Garza appeared poised to make a run at becoming the first Iowa men's basketball player to ever score 50 points in a single game. Virtually unstoppable in the first half, Garza finished the opening 20 minutes with 36 points hitting all 12 field goal attempts including a pair of 3-pointers while shooting 10-12 from the free throw line.

"I'm just grateful to be a part of a team that is so unselfish," Garza said. "I don't even think I realized I wasn't missing. Every shot I took I felt like I should make. I practice a lot. When you work hard, you're able to hit a lot of shots. I can be this efficient. It's something I wanted to work for this season."

Garza earned Big Ten player of the week honors by averaging 33.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two season-opening wins for the Hawkeyes. Iowa climbed to No. 3 in the most recent Associated Press college basketball rankings, the highest mark for the program since the 2015-16 season.

Fouls, and Iowa's lead, played a part in Garza's day coming to an end early after being whistled for his fourth foul with 6:16 to play. Garza managed just two field goals in the second half, scoring on a hook shot with 17:44 left before sinking his third 3-pointer with 7:52 remaining, earning 40 points for the first time since scoring a career-high 44 points last season in a loss at Michigan.

"What I'm excited about for him is that he's been killing the 3-ball," Iowa head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery said of Garza. "To see him make the 3-pointer is huge for him. He's also doing well from the foul line. Those are numbers that I'm really happy to see.

"We don't want to get comfortable, no matter how big the lead is," Garza added. "We've done a lot of good things so far. We have a lot of confidence, but there's nothing to be comfortable about. We're proud of getting out here and taking care of our business, but we know what's coming ahead of us."

Iowa reached the century mark for the first time this season, shooting 55 percent from the field against the outmatched Jaguars. The Hawkeyes outscored Southern 28-9 in points off turnovers and shared the ball well, especially in the first half, with 27 assists on 32 field goals with six different players coming up with at least one of the 12 assists that led to Garza's perfect 12-12 shooting performance from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

"The guys handled the game plan really well. They shared the ball well, which you always expect from this team," McCaffery said. "I learned a lot about our depth, our versatility. I'm excited about our young guys. Our older guys are playing tough, just like we expected. We've just got to keep getting better."

Even with just 10 minutes on the floor from Garza in the second half, No. 5 Iowa maintained a comfortable lead extending the advantage to as large as 34 points late in the game. Southern was able to play a competitive second half as the Hawkeyes only outscored the Jaguars 45-41 in the final 20 minutes getting as close as 76-52 drawing the ire of McCaffery during a timeout with eight minutes to go.

"You want the guys to hold themselves accountable, but you have to be careful," McCaffery said. "I was on them hard. It wasn't because of our execution. What upset me is their rebounding and our lack of offensive rebounds. We're not supposed to get outrebounded in this game."

Southern owned a 42-37 edge on the glass, including a 19-10 edge in offensive rebounds. The rebounding advantage allowed the Jaguars (0-2) to only be outscored 38-34 in the paint despite Garza going for 22 points inside alone for the Hawkeyes.

"Could we have been a little tougher defensively? Maybe. It's not the end of the world," McCaffery said. "All in all, when you have the kind of accountability we have in the locker room, it's good to see."

Joe Wieskamp added 16 points for the Hawkeyes on Friday, hitting 4-6 from 3-point territory. Wieskamp scored just nine points in Wednesday's season opening 97-67 win over North Carolina-Central, missing his only two 3-point attempts in that game.

"I was disappointed in myself. I wanted to come out and be aggressive," Wieskamp said. "These are games that prepare us for the games against North Carolina, Iowa State, Gonzaga and every game in the Big Ten."

"The kid was in foul trouble. I was able to take him out, rest him and put him back in. If you give him the minutes, he's going hit shots," McCaffery added.

Ahsanta Shivers led a balanced scoring effort for Southern with 13 points, one of four Jaguar players to reach double figures on Friday. Iowa (2-0) is back in action at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Thursday night hosting Western Illinois at 7 p.m.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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