Garza, Wieskamp lead Iowa to another victory over ranked opponent

Iowa’s win over Rutgers Wednesday night is the third-straight home-court win for the Hawkeyes over a ranked team.

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Garza, Wieskamp lead Iowa to another victory over ranked opponent

Iowa forward Luka Garza dribbles during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 22.

Iowa forward Luka Garza dribbles during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 22.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Luka Garza dribbles during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 22.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Luka Garza dribbles during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 22.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

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Three games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, three ranked opponents, three Hawkeye victories.

After beating No. 12 Maryland and No. 19 Michigan in its previous two games at home, the Iowa men’s basketball team continued its run of Big Ten triumphs Wednesday night against No. 24 Rutgers.

The Hawkeyes downed the newly-ranked Scarlet Knights, 85-80, in center Luka Garza’s latest audition for the Naismith Player of the Year Award.

Garza finished the game with 28 points on 11-of-17 field goals. He also grabbed 13 rebounds and swatted four shots.

“[Garza’s] relentless,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s a problem for a lot of people. This league is full of a lot of good big guys, and he’s right at the top of the list.”

Garza fueled not only the Hawkeyes against Rutgers, but the home crowd as well.

When the junior swatted a Rutgers layup attempt into Iowa’s student section, Carver-Hawkeye Arena got loud. After he fought through contact to make a layup and then flexed at the camera, it got very loud.

After draining a 3-pointer with 12 minutes remaining in the second half, Garza ran down to the other end of the court with a grin on his face.

His energy proved to be contagious.

“I think it’s just the type of player I’ve always been,” Garza said. “I’ve always been a guy who plays with emotion. I think it’s a mutual thing. When other guys show emotion, I feed off that as well. I try to pump guys up. When we’re at our best, we’re all playing with emotion, playing with energy.”

In Iowa’s previous two wins at Carver against ranked teams, Garza put up similarly dominant performances.

Against Maryland, he scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. In his second game against the Wolverines this season, Garza put up 33 points, giving him 77 against Michigan on the year.

“He’s just dominant every night,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “You don’t look at him and it’s like, ‘Well, I’m not surprised. 28 [points] and 13 [rebounds].

“[Rutgers center Myles] Johnson is really good. I think he’s one of the better big men in our league and in the country. To do it against him — and they were fronting and they were digging — but I thought his decision making, when to go, when not to go, hit a huge three; that’s the beauty of his game.”

Garza dominated despite not scoring in the final 11:32 of the game. When Rutgers started to mount a comeback late in the second half, other Hawkeyes stepped up — specifically Joe Wieskamp.

The sophomore forward connected on the 100th 3-pointer of his career with 1:28 remaining in the game to give Iowa a four-point advantage.

“[The shot] felt really good,” Wieskamp said. “Didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get shots off tonight. They’re really good defensive team. But I was finally able to get the open look, take the shot with confidence, and knock it down.”

The noise from the home crowd was suffocating — especially down the stretch — even though the attendance was nowhere near capacity.

After three straight home wins over ranked opponents, it should only get louder.

“When we’re winning, they’re going to continue to show up,” Wieskamp said. “That’s what we’ve got to continue to do. It’s been a crazy year in the Big Ten. The home team usually wins. We’ve got to get as many people we can in here.”

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