Iowa center Luka Garza, left, makes a 3-point basket as Iowa State forward Solomon Young (33) defends during a NCAA non-conference Cy-Hawk men’s basketball game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
IOWA CITY — The start may have been delayed, but the Luka Garza show was on display at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday as expected.
Iowa’s National Player of the Year frontrunner big man scored 34 points on 13-of-14 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 from 3-point range despite playing just 17 minutes due to first-half foul trouble, leaving the Iowa State defense helpless time and time again in a 105-77 Hawkeye victory that stands as the largest margin of victory in the series’ history and stretches the Cyclones’ losing streak in the rivalry to three games.
“(Iowa is a) very good team. Very difficult to guard. I thought that stretch in the second half, Garza was really good,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “Was really good around the basket, but was terrific from three in pick and pop and spacing the floor. Very, very good basketball team. I thought we showed minutes from us in segments of being a good basketball team down the road. Just got to build on that. A tough second half and got to learn from it.”
The Cyclones showed flashes of potential during the first half once Garza, who played only seven minutes before the break, was forced to the bench with two fouls and briefly held a lead at 32-29 with less than eight minutes to play in the first 20 minute period.
Javan Johnson was the biggest key to Iowa State’s first-half success as he scored 11 of his team-high 20 points before halftime.
Iowa State played probably its best half of the season to start in Iowa City but still went into the break facing an 11-point deficit due in large part to the Hawkeyes shooting 15-of-19 on 2-point shots.
“If you watch it, you see it, if you follow basketball. I thought our activity on the defensive end (was good). I thought Tyler (Harris) really bothered Bohannon,” Prohm said. “I think those three guards are terrific, (Jordan) Bohannon, (CJ) Frederick and (Joe) Wieskamp, Wieskamp’s terrific, but I thought Tyler really bothered him. They let (Connor) McCaffrey kind of initiate offense. I thought that revved us up. I thought we were able to push in transition, Rasir (Bolton) got downhill, we played off our middle ball screen, we just attacked better with better purpose for the most part. Took the lead in the 30s. The last three minutes of the first half were terrible. That was the difference in the game outside of the start of the second half. That last three minutes of the first half was huge. It’s just the second chance points, (Jack) Nunge kind of kicked our tail in the second half, stuff like that can’t happen when you’ve already got four guys you’re worried about. The three perimeter guys and Garza.”
The dam broke quickly in the second half once Garza returned to the floor and he posted a 21-straight-point run that sits as one of the most impressive stretches this reporter has ever seen an opponent post against Iowa State. He finished the second half with 25 points on 10-of-10 shooting and 5-of-5 from deep.
Iowa out-scored Iowa State 53-36 after halftime as the Cyclones struggled to find anything on the offensive end, shooting 40.6 percent in the half and turning the ball over nine times.
Johnson was joined in double figures by Jalen Coleman-Lands, 17 points on 6-of-9 from the field, and Rasir Bolton, 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Freshman Xavier Foster scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in his most extended playing time of the season.
“Really just defensive wise we had a good first half,” Johnson said. “We didn’t close the half out good and they made a lot of threes and went on a run and it was hard to recover from that.”
The Cyclones, who had not played in nine days prior to Friday, will return to the floor on Tuesday when Kansas State visits Hilton Coliseum for the Big 12 regular-season opener. That game, against a team that lost to Division II Fort Hays State at home earlier this week, should offer some relief after what the Cyclones faced on Friday.
The best part is the Luka Garza show will roll on in a different location.
“December’s going to be about basketball character,” Prohm said. “We’re going to have to get better through going into some tough environments and I don’t mean that with fans, but going against good teams. Playing against Iowas and on the road at West Virginia next week. Open up league play against Kansas State at home next week. I talked to them a long time in the locker room just about what this thing is about, what matters to me, what matters to Iowa State. We’ve got to keep growing.
“I know everybody’s going to point fingers at this one game. I get it. I’ve been through it. I understand it. I’ve got to have a bigger vision. I’ve got to have a God-sized vision. I’ve got to understand that. I’ve got to believe that. I’ve got to be faithful to that. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I’ve got to continue talking to those guys about continuing to understand the process of staying the course of trying to become a good basketball team. In December, it’s going to be like this for us sometimes until we figure out what it takes and the alignments that we need to go with.”