Luka Garza’s tunnel vision has become especially narrow.
He wasn’t looking behind to review his recent struggles, if you can even call them that.
He wasn’t looking ahead at the history that is coming into focus.
No, Thursday’s game at Wisconsin — 40 minutes in a place where Iowa, and for that matter most teams, have stumbled — was all that mattered to the senior center.
And when he was done with the 30-point, 8-rebound night in the 77-62 win over the Badgers, Garza’s vision hadn’t widened.
“This,” he said, “was a great team win against a great team.”
The 11th-ranked Hawkeyes (16-6 overall, 10-5 Big Ten) have won three consecutive games. The last win was a 30-point victory at Michigan State, and now they have this one over the No. 21 Badgers.
You go into two of the toughest arenas in the conference and win both games, even in a year when a pandemic has turned them from noisy castles to cones of silence, and you’ve done something.
“It was a great win for us,” said guard CJ Fredrick.
And it started with Garza. Garza is the nation’s leading scorer, but his eight-point game in Saturday’s 88-58 win at Michigan State was his first single-digit game since Thanksgiving weekend of 2019 — a long, long time ago, it seems, in the chronology of Garza’s two-season run of success. He came into the game having made just 11 of his last 31 shots.
But Garza had 17 first-half points as Iowa built a 13-point lead on the way to a 36-27 halftime margin.
“Any time you’re on the road, you want to get a lead, establish your best player. And then just kind of go from there,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
“Honestly, my main focus was getting back to what I do,” Garza said. “That’s just playing as hard as I can, not worry about anything else, try to make the plays to help my team win.”
Garza was 7-of-12 from the field, 3-of-4 in 3-pointers, in the first half.
It was something forward Joe Wieskamp sensed was coming.
“I knew after he struggled a little bit in the last game, he was going to come out and just kill tonight,” said Wieskamp, who stayed on his own roll with a 17-point game. “You could tell his mindset in practice this week, and coming out on the floor tonight, that he was just going to kill everyone in front of him.”
“It’s huge,” said Fredrick, who despite his lower-leg injury played almost 31 minutes. “He’s hitting threes, he’s got his right-handed hook going. It’s really hard to guard him. He was just dominating the paint.
“He just had it rolling tonight.”
Iowa pushed its lead to 43-27 with 17:19 to play, but the Badgers (15-8, 9-7) rallied, closing to within 49-46 with 9:17 to play.
They would get no closer.
“I think our whole mindset as a team, we went into a timeout (thinking), ‘That was their run, now it’s time for ours,’” Garza said.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Wieskamp said. “But to be able to combat that with our own run was huge.”
Wieskamp provided some of the answers — two 3-pointers to answer two threes from Wisconsin’s Brad Davison to put Iowa up 61-52. After that, the Hawkeyes held the Badgers to just 10 points over the final 6:01.
Wisconsin made just 21-of-70 shots.
“I thought our defense, start to finish, was pretty good,” McCaffery said.
“We were really locked in,” Fredrick said.
Wieskamp had 11 second-half points. He has scored 99 points in the last five games, and he is 15-of-20 in 3-pointers during this winning streak.
“I just love his aggressiveness right now,” McCaffery said. “I’m just proud of Joe Wieskamp and the complete nature of his game right now.”
The complete nature of the win was evident as Garza’s view expanded with his post-game analysis.
“This is definitely one of them,” he said when asked if this was Iowa’s most impressive win of the season. “I think we’ve had some impressive performances, when you look back at it. I think this is definitely up there.
“It feels great to have such a team win, where so many guys did what they could to help the team win. This is a great team win against a great team.”
It was Garza’s seventh game of 30 points or more this season, most in the nation. And it got him closer to the biggest milestone in the program — Garza needs just 14 points to become the leading scorer in program history. He could pass that sign post ahead in Sunday’s home game against Penn State.
“I try not to think about it,” Garza said. “I don’t want to psych myself out.”
The vision was narrow again.