Iowa looks to get back in win column against Big Ten-leading Michigan

The Hawkeyes look to get back on track against one of the best defenses in the country.


Lily Smith

Iowa forward Luka Garza looks to attempt a shot during the Iowa/Illinois men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 20, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini, 95-71.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Coming off two-straight losses, Iowa will have its hands full when it takes on No. 5 Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye at 6 p.m. today.

While the losses have raised questions about Iowa’s defensive efficiency — it gave up 92 points to Minnesota and allowed a 26-4 Michigan State run to put that game out of reach — the Hawkeyes have one aspect trending positively for them: Luka Garza.

Garza has posted at least 20 points in Iowa’s last four games, becoming the first Hawkeye to reach that mark in four-consecutive Big Ten games since Aaron White in 2015.

His 25-point performance against Minnesota on Sunday helped keep Iowa in the game. It became especially important when Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp combined for just 5 points.

Garza dropped 20 against No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 24, so he has proven he can produce against some of the best in the country. Now, it’s a matter of continuing the streak against one of the nation’s best defenses.

“I know what I’m capable of doing,” Garza said. “I have really high expectations for myself, and I hold myself to a really high standard. This isn’t something that I’m surprised about. It’s not something I’m going to let get to my head. I go into every game — it’s a new game, it’s a new day.”

While the Hawkeyes have been solid inside with Garza and Tyler Cook leading the way, it’s clear they need production from outside.

RELATED: Bohannon, Wieskamp searching for their shot

Isaiah Moss has carried the load in recent games, playing arguably the best stretch of basketball of his college career, but Bohannon and Wieskamp have been unable to find their groove.

Bohannon has scored a total of 5 points in his last two games, and Wieskamp has 8.

Katina Zentz
Minnesota guard Amir Coffey shoots the ball after dribbling past Iowa forward Luka Garza during the men’s basketball game vs. Minnesota at Williams Arena on Sunday, January 27, 2019. The Gophers defeated the Hawkeyes 92-87.

At the same time, though, they haven’t been getting shots; Bohannon and Wieskamp combined for just 5 shot attempts against the Gophers as well.

If Iowa wants to hand Michigan its second loss of the season, it will need production from two of its best scorers.

“It’s unusual, but it happens,” Bohannon said. “It’s the Big Ten — we’re playing one of the best teams in the country on a night-to-night basis. I know this is going to be frustrating sometimes, but my thought is just to try to stay optimistic, because that’s what you need to be, especially in this league.”

No matter who is scoring, though, the Wolverines aren’t an easy team to get back in the win column against.

Michigan gives up only 56.1 points a game, good for first in the Big Ten and second in the country.

Although the Hawkeyes rank second in the Big Ten with 82.2 points per game, it won’t be easy to score against the Maize and Blue defense because of its intensity on that end of the floor.

Excluding a two-game stretch against Wisconsin (their only loss) and Minnesota, the Wolverines have been almost as perfect as a team can get.

“The thing that impresses me about them is they play with an incredibly high confidence level,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They believe in each other, they believe in themselves, they believe in the coaches. Anybody can go one-on-one at any time but stay within the structure and move the ball, compete defensively.