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Game Report: Hawkeyes Hold Off No. 24 Rutgers for 4th Win in a Row

January 22, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – King Luka and a couple of extraordinary Joes proved too much for Rutgers Wednesday night here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Scarlet Knights just happened to be the latest victim of a red-hot Iowa team.

Luka Garza netted 28 points and 13 rebounds for the No. 19 Hawkeyes (14-5 overall, 5-3 Big Ten). The Big Ten’s leader in scoring and on the backboards continued his tear, Joe Wieskamp (15 of 18 points in second half, 4 assists) remained his best supporting cast member and freshman Joe Toussaint (14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists with 2 turnovers in 30 minutes) stepped forward as a key member of the production.

As if that wasn’t enough for No. 24 Rutgers (14-5, 5-3) to handle, Connor McCaffery sealed the victory with four clutch free throws in the game’s final minute. Ryan Kriener added 11 points off the bench and five different Hawkeyes handed out at least three assists.

Perhaps the biggest key to the game, however, was Iowa’s work on the glass. It out-rebounded a team ranked third in the conference in rebounding margin by eight.

“It was a huge key for them. Obviously, it was a huge key for us to (try and) win the battle of the boards. They’re a good rebounding team, too. They have good size, and to their credit, they took care of business on the boards,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said.

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Said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery: “If they shoot the ball really well they’re incredibly difficult to beat, but when they don’t shoot it well they go back and get it typically. If you don’t rebound the ball, they’re going to get it and put it back in or get it and throw it back out.

“Obviously an emphasis, and really proud of our guys for how they responded in that area.”

The Hawkeyes turned an eight-point deficit early in the second half into a 10-point lead midway through the period. Rutgers kept coming, however, and took a 77-76 lead on a pair of Ron Harper Jr. free throws with 2:25 to play. The Knight sophomore ended up with a career-best 29 points.

A resilient Iowa team would not wilt, though. C.J. Fredrick gave the home team a one-point advantage with a layup off a Wieskamp feed. After a stop on defense, Wieskamp drained a 3-pointer, putting the Hawkeyes ahead, 81-77, with 1:29 on the clock.

Harper knocked down two more free throws, trimming his team’s deficit to two, but McCaffery then made four free throws in a row, clinching the win. They were his first points of the game.

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“I think he expects that of himself, and that’s how you have to close a game out,” Fran McCaffery said of his son.

Once again, adversity was not match for the Hawkeyes.

“We certainly after the two turnovers had an opportunity to hang our heads, and we did not do that. We kept fighting. We executed on offense, to perfection, and then got the key stops,” Fran McCaffery said.

Iowa won for the third time in a row against a ranked opponent at home. Its fourth consecutive victory overall matched a season-best.

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The Knights came into the game leading the Big Ten in fewest points allowed per game (58.7). They had held eight opponents in a row to 65 points or fewer, their best run since 1982.

The Hawkeyes shot 52.7 percent from the floor against an outfit that was holding the opposition to 36.4, the lowest in the league.

TIP-INS

-Garza totaled 20+ points/10 + rebounds for the eighth game this season, which ties for the most in the country.

-Iowa’s 85 points are the most Rutgers has allowed this season (80 vs. St. Bonaventure).

-Wieskamp’s 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining was the 100th of his career.

-Ryan Kriener scored in double figures for a third straight game.

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