For a while, Luka Garza was just a spectator.
Saddled with two fouls just nine minutes into the game, sitting in his assigned seat on the end of the front row of Iowa’s bench, Garza stared out on the court as the Hawkeyes pulled away from Iowa State in the first half of Friday’s game.
“I definitely was a little bit frustrated,” Garza said. “Getting ticky-tack fouls is unlike me. And it was just upsetting. I wanted to get out there and just kind of let loose.”
Oh, did he let loose.
Garza scored 25 of his game-high 34 points in the second half as No. 3 Iowa defeated Iowa State, 105-77, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It was the third consecutive win for the Hawkeyes in the rivalry series, and Garza was glad he could be a part of it, even for a little while.
“I’m proud of the rest of our guys for taking care of business when I was out of the game,” said Garza, who played 16 minutes, 35 seconds. “ It gives me confidence that, when I make a mistake like that, we’re not doomed.”
Jack Nunge scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half with Garza on the bench.
“It’s the next man up,” Nunge said. “That’s something our team has really taken a hold of this year. If it happens to me, if it happens to anybody, we’ve got good players on the bench who can step up.”
Nunge was in the same recruiting class with Garza, a pair of 6-foot-11 centers who have become quite the set of bookends this season.
“(Nunge) was awesome,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “That’s what he does. He’s just a terrific player, and we needed him. Luka’s in foul trouble, and somebody’s got to step up. And he sure did.”
“Nunge kicked our butts in the first half,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.
But Garza’s stewing led to an eruption that the Cyclones couldn’t contain.
Garza made all 10 of his shots in the second half, and had a stretch of four consecutive 3-pointers as Iowa went on a 12-0 run, turning a close game into a rout.
The 6-foot-11 senior scored the most points by a Division I player who played less than 20 minutes in a game over the past 25 seasons.
“We were looking for him once he got going,” McCaffery said. “The beautiful thing about him is, he can score inside. He can score outside. He scores wherever you put him.
“He’s got a great stroke. He works hard on it.”
“That stretch in the second half, Garza was really good,” Prohm said. “He was good around the basket, but was terrific from three.”
McCaffery is never a coach who likes to play a player with two fouls in the first half, not even someone like Garza.
He admitted he thought about putting him back in, but the play of Nunge and the rest of the Hawkeyes ended that thought.
“I always want my guys to be able to play without being tentative,” McCaffery said. “As long as we were doing OK, I was going to leave him out a little longer. Put him back in if we had to. But I thought we were OK.”
It’s Iowa’s longest streak in the rivalry series since a run of three victories from 1988-90. The Hawkeyes’ point total was the most for a team in the series.
“I definitely have embraced it,” Garza said. “Coming from (Washington) D.C., I’d never been to Iowa in my life. I think Iowa’s going to be a part of me forever. I’ve just grown to understand what this rivalry means.”
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