Garza settles in after slow start, scores 29 against North Florida

After opening the game 0-for-5 from the field, Iowa’s big man responded by scoring 29 points.


Katie Goodale

Iowa center Luka Garza goes for a lay-up during the Iowa's game against The University of North Florida in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Osprey 83-68.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

A slow start can derail a great performance before it even has the chance to happen. Luka Garza didn’t let that happen Thursday night.

In Iowa’s 83-68 runaway victory over North Florida, Iowa’s junior center again led the Hawkeyes in scoring, posting 29 points.

That total did not come without its difficulties, however. Garza missed his first five shots against the Ospreys.

Wajid Aminu — the reigning Mountain Sun Defensive Player of the Year — played aggressive defense on Garza and contained him early. Aminu blocked five shots against Iowa, two of them on Garza in the game’s first five minutes.

“Aminu is a really terrific defender,” Garza said. “He’s really smart about when jumps for shot fakes, when he blocks shots. I hadn’t played anyone like him this year.”

With 13:40 remaining in the first half, Garza finally connected on a shot attempt to open his scoring for the game. Garza received the ball under the basket after Iowa guard C.J. Fredrick pump-faked and fired a no-look pass to the big man.

Garza layed it in after receiving the fastball pass from Fredrick, drawing a foul in the process.

For the rest of the half, Garza kept putting points on the board. After the 0-for-5 shooting start Garza converted on his next seven field-goal attempts before Iowa went to the locker room.

The Washington native finished the first 20 minutes of play with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while also grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots.

“He missed a couple shots early that he normally makes,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They were banging him up pretty good and playing physical defense against him. He adjusted and understood they play their defense a certain way. He knows he’s going to be open in certain places, so he goes there and is ready to shoot the ball. He understood what we needed tonight.”

One of North Florida’s weak points on defense was defending corner shots from behind the arc. Garza recognized that coming into the game and exploited it as the game progressed.

“At first, I tried to go inside,” Garza said. “I was a little hesitant, didn’t do a great job at finishing. But then I settled down and did a better throughout the course of the game. I just try to play to my advantage, find where the openings are. I feel like I can score from anywhere on the offensive end. From the 3, from the 2, mid-range.”

Garza’s 29 points was one off his career-high, something he totaled in last week’s game against Oral Roberts with 30. Garza only missed one field goal after his early struggles, finishing 12-of-18 from the field and 2-of-2 from 3-point range. He also hauled in 12 rebounds to give him back-to-back double-doubles.

Garza undoubtedly has the hot hand on the Iowa offense right now. He is the first Hawkeye to score 29 or more points in a game since Matt Gatens did so back in the 2011-12 season.

As long as Garza keeps producing, his teammates will keep feeding him the ball.

“He’s a beast in the post,” Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp said. “It’s hard to handle him down low, especially when their tallest guy is 6-7, 6-8. No one is going to be able to stop him. When he’s finishing the ball so well, we just keep going to him, and hopefully that continues.”

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