The video made it to social media not long after Iowa’s 86-74 win over Grand Canyon in Saturday’s NCAA tournament first-round game.
Luka Garza ran off the Indiana Farmers Coliseum court after doing his post-game TV interview, and as he ran by the NCAA camera operator, he held up one finger and said, “That’s one.”
And really, that’s all that it’s about for the Hawkeyes, the No. 2 seed in the West Regional, who advanced to Monday’s second-round game against Oregon.
The Hawkeyes had to wait a while to play in this year’s tournament. Confined to their hotel “bubble” in downtown Indianapolis on Friday, they had a chance to watch some of the other games, and saw some big names, most notably a No. 2-seeded Ohio State team, get knocked out.
An 11-2 run to open the game allowed the Hawkeyes (22-8) gain early control on the 15th-seed Antelopes (17-7) and enough distance to weather any sort of run.
“I think watching all the games yesterday we got to learn some lessons from other teams, and in terms of not being able to come out as good as you want to,” said Garza, who led the Hawkeyes with 24 points. “So we wanted to make sure that we threw the first punch tonight, and they're a really, really good team, and they were able to punch back and they have held their own against a lot of great teams, Colorado, Arizona State, a lot of teams. So, you know, we knew what we were facing and we knew they weren't just going to back down, so we had to continue to keep fighting.”
The Hawkeyes hadn’t played in almost a week after their loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, but they took advantage of the practice and shooting time they had been granted.
Rust, coach Fran McCaffery said, wasn’t a concern.
“You know, I think that's a legitimate question, but I will say this — I didn't think we would have it because I thought we practiced really well,” McCaffery said. “It was one of those things where the guys are in the hotel, they're not leaving the hotel, so I think they actually look forward to lifting and they look forward to going to practice and getting out and getting shots up and engaging with each other and then going to meetings and watching film, and I was impressed … with their professionalism in that regard.”
“I think we have been working really hard. We're really glad that we have the opportunity to be able to get in the gym as much as we are,” Garza said. “We have practice every day and we have shooting times and different things like that. So everybody's been able to get locked into getting our shots out, staying ready. We pushed ourselves to stay in shape and did a lot of conditioning drills this week, because we know, when you take a week off playing and you don't do anything in terms of conditioning, you can lose that a little bit. So I think we did a really good job and you could see none of us were tired at all, even after a week break from games. So that, so I'm proud of our guys for being able to do that.”
“We just prepared all week,” said forward Joe Wieskamp, who had 16 points. “We were mentally locked in each and every day of practice, our film sessions, things like that. We know the importance of these games, so we came out strong.”
Garza was especially strong early, scoring eight of Iowa’s first 13 points, but he picked up his second foul with 5:06 to play. Iowa led 29-24 at the time, but was able to lead 42-31 at halftime after getting 20 points from the bench.
“I think especially when couple guys started to get in foul trouble, you saw Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery, Joe Toussaint, Tony Perkins, so many guys come in and really, really step up and help us get this win,” Garza said. “They did a terrific job. They came with a lot of energy and I think we all know those guys can do that. They have done that over the course of this year and, you look at our best wins, those guys have great performances off the bench and are helping us out a lot.”
Iowa ended up with 26 bench points. Murray, a freshman playing in his first NCAA tournament game, shook off some early jitters and finished with 13 points. McCaffery had six points in 15 1/2 minutes. Toussaint had five points in almost 11 minutes.
The Hawkeyes were 10-of-22 in 3-pointers against a team that ranked 11th nationally in 3-point defense.
“We definitely had some mental lapses that we don't normally have,” said GCU coach Bryce Drew. “We definitely had some miscues that really hurt us. So some of that was on us, but when you're playing against a team as good as Iowa, your margin of error is so small. If one guy misses a box out, costs us. If one guy doesn't get back on defense, it costs us. And that's what good teams do, they take advantage of those miscues. And for us to win this game we had to be near perfect especially on that defensive end. And again you got to credit them for going 10-of-22 from three and really making key shots.”
The Hawkeyes now get Oregon, a team that will be playing its first game of the tournament after Saturday’s game against VCU was declared a no-contest because of COVID-19 issues within the Rams’ program.
“It’s definitely a weird situation,” Wieskamp said. “On one hand, they’re not going to be as tired. On the other hand, they haven’t taken the court yet. We’re just going to approach it as another game. They’re the next team in front of us.”
The Hawkeyes have one win. They want more.
“A win in the NCAA Tournament is great,” Wieskamp said. “Where we want to go, we have to clean up some areas.”
“I think we're really focused,” Garza said. “I think everything we do, every meeting, every film session, everything, you can tell this team is really locked in and we know what we have to do to be able to move on. This tournament is survive and advance, you got to be able to be focused every single possession of every game and, I think, to be critical of ourselves.”
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