Garza set for another big matchup with Wisconsin

Luka Garza has played plenty of games against some of the top big men in the conference recently, and he gets another chance on Monday.


Shivansh Ahuja

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

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Luka Garza doesn’t receive many breaks in the Big Ten.

In Iowa’s last three home games, all against ranked opponents, Garza has gone up against some of the best big men the conference has to offer — and he’s played well.

When he faced Maryland’s Jalen Smith, he put up 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Against Michigan’s Jon Teske, Garza dropped 33 and pulled down seven boards. Finally, he dominated Rutgers’ Myles Johnson in the Hawkeyes’ last game by scoring 28 points to go along with 13 rebounds.

Now, he will receive another chance to prove his value on Monday when Nate Reuvers and Wisconsin visit Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7:30 p.m today.

For Garza and the Hawkeyes, it’s just another day.

“That’s what we signed up for,” Garza said. “When you want to play in the Big Ten, these are the type of battles you look forward to. These are the type of games you want to play. We’re not a soft league where there’s off nights. We go against the best in the country, and that’s what’s going to prepare us for March.”

While Reuvers leads the Badgers with 13.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, Garza paces Iowa in a different way.

Garza is the only player in the Big Ten averaging over 20 points a game — he sits at 23.2 — and he ranks second with 10.3 boards a game.

His dominance night in and night out has become such a regular occurrence that a 30-point performance is no longer surprising.

Garza has failed to reach the 20-point mark only five times this season, and four of those were in Iowa’s first seven games. On top of that, he’s scored at least 30 points on four separate occasions, including a 44-point outburst against Michigan on Dec. 6.

“I don’t know if he’s elevating his game; 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.’”

As “Let the Peacock Fly” has become popular among the Hawkeye fan base, so has Garza’s on-court passion.

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Whether it’s flexing in the camera or yelling after draining a bucket with a bloody nose, Garza plays with an energy the Hawkeyes need when they play the schedule they do.

“When I’m in the flow of a game, I kind of get lost,” Garza said. “That’s what basketball does for me. It allows me to show who I am and my personality.”

Iowa feeds off that emotion.

When Garza’s on a roll, his teammates can feel comfortable putting shots up because he can grab the rebound and put it back in. McCaffery said he covers up mistakes.

Putting Garza — and the rest of the Hawkeye offense — up against a Badger defense that ranks 11th in the conference in field-goal defense could mean good things for an Iowa team attempting to win its ninth home game in a row.

“I feel like every time I throw him the ball, he’s going to score,” Iowa guard Joe Toussaint said. “It’s just great knowing that I have a bucket getter. And it’s not just with him. It’s with CJ [Fredrick], too. It’s with Joe Wieskamp. It’s with Connor [McCaffery]. It’s with everybody. Every time I pass the ball, I feel like the ball’s just going to go through the basket.”