Cook, Garza produce in the paint, but Hawkeyes fall short

Iowa’s production inside should’ve been enough for a win, but a Michigan State run spoiled the Hawkeyes’ chances at a statement win.


David Harmantas

Iowa forward Luka Garza #55 throws up a shot during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

When Iowa faced Michigan State on Dec. 3, things turned bad quick.

The Spartans pounded the rock into the paint to the tune of 48 points, far better than the Hawkeyes’ 20.

Nick Ward posted 26 points on 10-of-10 shooting, Kenny Goins dropped 19, and Xavier Tillman had 14.

Despite an 82-67 loss to the Spartans on Thursday, the roles got reversed, and it was the Hawkeyes doing the pounding inside.

Tyler Cook and Luka Garza led Iowa to a revenge game in the paint, as the Hawkeyes toppled the Spartans inside with 40 points, compared to their opponents’ 28.

Still, Iowa couldn’t capitalize. Time and again, the Hawkeyes threw it inside, but they were rewarded with just 8 free throws and a loss.

“Our game plan was to throw the ball inside and we did. Many times,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Phenomenally aggressive. Most aggressive we’ve been all year long.”

For a while, it looked as if Iowa would never turn on the jets inside like it needed to. Cook headed into the locker room at halftime with just 4 points to his name, while Garza had a respectable 9.

Then, Cook took off in the early parts second half, scoring 11 in just the first 4:50 of the second half before finishing with 17. Garza kept his foot on the gas, totaling 20 points by the time the final whistle blew.

But just as quick as the run came, it went away. Michigan State went on a 26-4 run to close the door on a Hawkeye victory. The Spartans ended the game on a 40-17 run. Things fell apart for Iowa.

Cook may have failed to keep his momentum going, but the loss can’t be blamed on Iowa’s play in the paint.

David Harmantas
Iowa forward Tyler Cook #25 reacts during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67.

“Every game we go into, me and Tyler know we’re going to be able to impose our will on the block and just in general,” Garza said. “We expect that of ourselves and we hold ourselves to a really high standard to be able to play like that.”

Ward still got his buckets, scoring 21 points, but Iowa showed it can hang with one of the best frontcourts in the conference.

With one aspect of the game showing plenty of promise, it makes it even more difficult to swallow when Iowa can’t pull out a win.

“I feel like I was getting great shots all night,” Cook said. “They really didn’t do much down the stretch.

“We knew [physicality] was coming. You kind of know what it is going into the game with Michigan State. You don’t always get the whistles as you normally get.”

The Hawkeyes didn’t pick up their statement win against the Spartans, but there’s still another chance.

After a road bout against Minnesota on Jan. 27, the Hawkeyes will come back to Iowa City to defend their home court against No. 5 Michigan on Feb. 1.

Iowa showed it can control aspects of a game when it focuses on them. Now, if the Hawkeyes want that statement win, they have to put it all together.

“There were a lot of good things that happened for our team tonight, and you can’t lose sight of that because you get beat,” McCaffery said. “There was a stretch in the game where it got away from us. That’s unfortunate.”

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