History was one free throw away.
So of course Luka Garza shot … an airball.
It was something to laugh about after Iowa’s 74-68 win over Penn State on Sunday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Garza became Iowa’s all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball at 2,126 career points, 10 more than the mark set by Roy Marble.
The record-breaking points came on a layup with 8:18 left in the second half, when Garza caught a pass from Jordan Bohannon in the lane, driving to the basket toward history.
The drive that Garza wants is much deeper. He repeated on Sunday what he’s been saying all along.
“I didn’t come here to win awards, to score points. That wasn’t my goal,” Garza said. “I came here to win games.”
Still, he knew he was close to the record after his 30-point night against Wisconsin on Thursday. And when he got 12 points in the first half of Sunday’s game, the mark was imminent.
So when the Hawkeyes headed to their bench for a media timeout with 15:12 left, Garza looked at the scoreboard and saw how many points he had, and the mathematics he did told him how close he was.
The first free throw went in. The second one sailed through the air, and then hit nothing but floor.
“When the first one went in of the two of them, I was very surprised,” said Garza, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double. “Neither of them felt good. I was just thinking about (the record) too much. They called the timeout, I looked up at the scoreboard and knew where I was at. I had the whole timeout to think about it.”
“I think everyone knew (Garza) was close to the record, especially when he air-balled that free-throw,” Bohannon joked. “I think that was a little too much in his head when he missed that second free throw.”
Embarrassment can make for a good tranquilizer, and Garza would soon settle in, scoring 10 consecutive points in Iowa’s 13-2 run that broke a 54-all tie.
The milestone is just another chapter on a resumé that Garza has built.
“Last year was the huge jump he made in his career,” Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry said. “And he’s even better than he was then.”
“Every game, you become more and more impressed with how he goes about his business, and the example he sets for everybody in the locker room,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the 11th-ranked Hawkeyes (17-6 overall, 11-5 Big Ten).
Iowa opened the game with a 19-6 run, but trailed 41-36 at halftime. Garza was being pushed around, CJ Fredrick had cooled after a hot start, and Joe Wieskamp, who had averaged almost 20 points in the Hawkeyes’ last five games, went scoreless in the half.
But Wieskamp would open the second half with Iowa’s first nine points and finish the game with 11. Garza took command with his run. Fredrick ended up with 18 points.
The Hawkeyes are two games out in the Big Ten standings, and they get Michigan and Ohio State, two of the three teams ahead of them in the standings, on the road this week.
“This is the kind of basketball we signed up for,” Bohannon said. “We signed up at Iowa to play in these types of games, change the program, push the needle forward.”
Garza finally celebrated the record during a post-game ceremony. He shared a conversation with McCaffery, who told Garza how much he appreciated what he has done.
Then McCaffery had one last message.
“Keep it going,” McCaffery said.
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