Garza shines against Minnesota’s Oturu in Big Ten battle

Luka Garza proved again on Monday why he is one of the conference's best players, but it was a moment off the court that proved to be the highlight of his night.

Iowa+center+Luka+Garza+jumps+for+the+ball+during+the+men%27s+basketball+game+against+Minnesota+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Monday%2C+December+9%2C+2019.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Gophers+72-52.

Katina Zentz

Iowa center Luka Garza jumps for the ball during the men's basketball game against Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday, December 9, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 72-52.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

After battling Michigan’s Jon Teske in the low post last Friday against Michigan, Iowa center Luka Garza had another chance to match up with a talented big man against Minnesota.

Daniel Oturu has been dominant at center for the Gophers this season. The sophomore from Woodbury, Minnesota, entered Monday’s game averaging 17.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks.

“This league this year, every team has a tremendous big man,” Garza said. “Tonight, Daniel Oturu, a young big, he’s tremendous. He just finishes through contact, and he keeps coming at you. He’s a tough guard. We really battled. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Oturu had the second-highest scoring output of his college career against Iowa, putting 22 points on the scoreboard for Minnesota on 10-of-12 shooting. He also snagged 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.

Unfortunately for Oturu, he stuffed the scorecard in another area, as well. Oturu committed eight turnovers, multiple times due to traveling.

“He needs to recognize what they’re doing,” Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said. “If they’re going to come out you, don’t spin. Don’t put the ball down if you don’t need to. He’ll learn. He played really hard and did a great job in the first half. Luka is obviously a terrific player.”

Garza is coming off of a career-high 44 points against the Wolverines, a performance that earned him Big Ten Player of the Week.

He didn’t light up the scoreboard quite like he did in Iowa’s previous contest. He did, however, deliver another performance that confirms his standing as one of the best big men not only in the conference, but in the country.

Garza finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out two assists.

The performance is even more impressive considering Garza’s slow start. Garza shot 3-of-9 in the first half before picking it up in the final 20 minutes.

“He adjusted tonight,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Early on, they were physical, and they were coming at him. Unlike the other night where they were physical and playing behind and staying up on the 3-point shooters. I thought he was spectacular in the second half.”

Despite another noteworthy performance on the court, the highlight of Garza’s night came before the game even started.

The junior was recognized before tip-off for scoring 1,000-career points, and McCaffery presented him with a basketball that recognized the feat.

The ball wasn’t in Garza’s hands for long. After posing for pictures, Garza ran the ball over to his dad, Frank Garza, who was seated in the front row.

“My dad taught me the game,” Garza said. “He’s there every single game for me. He’s like my best friend. He put the ball in my hands when I was a little kid, and he taught me the way.

“Everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve done in my career is a credit to him and my family. My mom, my grandfather, everyone. They’ve all helped me get to this point, and I’m just going to keep going for the name on the back of my jersey.”

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