Hawkeyes Clean Up, Then Garza Finishes, In Road Win Over Northwestern

Iowa's Luka Garza shoots in the second half of Tuesday's win at Northwestern. (Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

John Bohnenkamp

EVANSTON, Ill. — Luka Garza went 25 minutes, 4 seconds, between his fourth and fifth field goals in Tuesday’s game against Northwestern.

He finished with 27 points, but what was more important was this — the Hawkeyes expanded their lead when he wasn’t scoring and was on the bench with foul trouble.

The 75-62 win was another lesson for a team that continues to grow — that they can play without their dominant scorer and rebounder.

“Luka is, of course, one of the best players in the country,” Iowa guard Bakari Evelyn said. “But we can’t bank on him every night to (get) 25 (points), or 25 and 12 (rebounds). So there are going to be days where he is going to be in foul trouble, like tonight, or he’s not hitting shots. It’s up to us to step up.”

Which is what the Hawkeyes (12-5 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) did. Garza spent a lot of time on the bench, but while he was out Iowa maintained, and then increased, the lead.

Garza picked up his second foul with 3:26 left in the first half and when he went out, the Hawkeyes led 32-28. He didn’t play the rest of the half, and Iowa’s lead at halftime was 41-35.

Garza’s third foul came 22 seconds into the second half. That sent him to the bench, and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery tried to hold him out as long as possible.

“We kind of wanted to get to the 12-minute mark, if we could,” McCaffery said.

McCaffery said Garza would have come back earlier had the Wildcats (6-10, 1-5) made a move. But when Garza came back into the game with 11:45 to go, the Iowa lead was 51-44.

“Coach told me to stay composed and stay ready, that he was going to go back to me,” said Garza, who leads the Big Ten in scoring. “Once I got back in there, I knew I had to go at it.”

Which he did. Garza converted a 3-point play at the 11:06 mark, starting a run of 14 consecutive points in 4:06.

“Obviously he was fresh, because he was out for so long,” McCaffery said. “He got up and down the floor pretty good.

“He was able to watch how they were defending. He’s a student. We made a concerted effort to get it to him. And the more we got it to him, the better he was.”

“That’s just kind of the ultimate confidence I have in myself,” Garza said. “Every time I touch the ball, I have the ability to score or make the right play.”

Garza made 10-of-14 shots, getting deep in Northwestern’s defense, especially when center Ryan Young got into foul trouble.

And when he’s that close to the basket?

“I feel like I can score on anybody,” Garza said.

It helped that guard CJ Fredrick was back after missing the last two games because of a stress reaction in his left foot. Fredrick, who came into the game shooting 50 percent in 3-pointers, scored 11 points in 30 minutes. Fredrick was 4-of-10 from the field, 3-of-7 in 3-pointers, and added five assists and two steals.

“You miss him out there, especially with the double-teams,” Garza said. “When the double-teams came around, we swung it around to him. When CJ is hitting threes, it’s a nice feeling having him back in the lineup.”

Joe Wieskamp had 11 points for the Hawkeyes, while Ryan Kriener had 10.

But there were other contributions. Junior forward Cordell Pemsl was especially effective feeding the post, finishing with four assists. Evelyn had eight points and a team-high seven assists. Connor McCaffery had eight points and seven rebounds.

Garza had the production he always seems to get. But when he wasn’t out there, the Hawkeyes kept going.

That, Evelyn said, was a good sign.

“When we’re flowing and clicking,” he said, “I think we’re a pretty good team.”