‘This is incredible:’ Hawkeye fans show appreciation for Luka Garza, other legends in win over Michigan State

Luka Garza’s No. 55 was officially retired at halftime of Iowa’s 86-60 win over Michigan State, while Charles “Chuck” Darling, Roy Marble, and Murray Wier all had their jerseys retired pregame.


Jerod Ringwald

Former Iowa center Luka Garza watches a video before having his jersey retired in front of fans during a men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena between No. 25 Iowa and Michigan State on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Garza ranks No. 1 in scoring all-time for the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans, 86-60.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Luka Garza was stopped as he walked off the court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena after a Senior Day win last season. Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery and Garza’s teammates swarmed the standout center as tears started to form in his eyes. Moments later, athletics director Gary Barta announced that no other Hawkeye in program history would ever wear No. 55. It would, one day, be retired.

The payoff to that moment finally happened on Tuesday night.

At halftime of No. 25 Iowa’s 86-60 win over Michigan State, Garza’s number was officially retired. A video full of highlights from Garza’s Hawkeye career and messages from his family and former teammates played in front of a crowd of 14,634. Chants of “Luka! Luka!” rang through the concourse. Garza stood at halfcourt, watching the video and taking the moment in.

The ceremony concluded with a black and gold banner donning Garza’s name and number being unveiled in the Carver rafters.

Garza shed a few more tears.

“This is incredible,” Garza said to the crowd. “I love you.”

The 6-foot-11 center from Washington D.C. covered a variety of topics in his return to Iowa City — from his name being spelled incorrectly by ESPN when he was being recruited to his current battles in the post against All-Star players like Joel Embiid. But a sense of appreciation to be in a full Carver-Hawkeye Arena again trumped those other thoughts.

The two-time National Player of the Year (consensus as a senior) and unanimous consensus All-American (the only Hawkeye to accomplish that twice) said before the game that it would be special to be in front of Iowa fans again. During his senior season, fans were not permitted inside Carver because of COVID-19 protocols. Garza, now a member of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, said it would have been nice to have Hawkeye fans see him score 34 points in 16 minutes against Iowa State last season, or for them to have had the opportunity to have seen him become the men’s program’s all-time leading scorer in-person.

But Tuesday made up for that, he said.

RELATED: Luka Garza: The Iowa men’s basketball program’s humble, team-driven all-time leading scorer

“I’m so thankful and lucky to be recruited by coach [Fran] McCaffery. I came here and fell in love with it,” Garza said. “It’s home for me.”

Garza wasn’t the only former Hawkeye recognized. Minutes before tipoff, Charles “Chuck” Darling, Roy Marble, and Murray Wier all had their jerseys retired in a similar ceremony to Garza’s. All three players, who are all deceased, had family members in attendance.

That includes Roy Marble’s son, Devyn Marble, one of six members of the Marble family present. Devyn Marble, who now plays professionally in Poland and is a top-10 scorer in Iowa history, said last year that he would “never watch another Iowa game in my life with the amount of disrespect that school has shown me and my family.”

Devyn Marble’s tweet came after the announcement that Garza’s jersey would be retired. He felt that his father, who died of cancer in 2015, should have been honored in a similar way. Roy Marble, who played at Iowa from 1986-89, was Iowa’s leading scorer for more than three decades until Garza surpassed him. Devyn Marble said conversations with Iowa helped mend the relationship. A grin was constant on the former all-Big Ten guard’s face as he talked about what Tuesday meant to his family.

“I never had no ill intent toward anybody,” Devyn Marble said. “I just wanted my dad to get what I felt he deserved … This is what he would have wanted. I feel like I’m completing the last chapter of what I’m supposed to do for him, you know.”

RELATED: Luka Garza, other Hawkeye legends to be honored during Iowa-MSU matchup

On a night where it honored four of its greatest players, Iowa won its 500th game inside Carver.

The roads outside the arena may be slick and icy, but Iowa was far from cold against Michigan State. The Hawkeyes have defeated the Spartans by 26 or more points in each of their last two games in the series. Iowa (19-8 overall, 9-7 Big Ten) forward Keegan Murray, who Michigan State (18-9, 9-7) coach Tom Izzo endorsed for Big Ten Player of the Year, scored 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The sophomore flexed and pointed at Garza sitting court-side after an and-one in the second half. The Hawkeyes as a team shot 43 percent from the field and the 3-point line. A 19-3 run in the second half ended any chance of Michigan State coming back.

And all that resulted in a fitting end to a historic day for the Iowa men’s basketball program.

“Felt like an ambush,” Izzo said. “This place was hopping. They retired a [number] of a guy who meant so much to this program — more than one I guess. I have a lot of respect for all of the guys who were honored. I think the players and the fans did an unbelievable job … It was their night. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you honor somebody.”

“To recognize four of the greatest to ever do it here,” McCaffery added, “when you have a celebration like that you want everything to go well, and it did.”