Luka Garza’s responses to questions after Iowa’s 81-69 loss to Indiana on Thursday night went right to the point.
The Hawkeyes weren’t ready for the game, and it showed.
And Garza vowed this wasn’t going to happen again.
“We’re going to be better,” he said. “I’m going to make sure that we’re better. I’m going to make sure that we don’t take anything for granted, and that we see every game as the most important on the schedule. And I’m going to have to do that as one of the leaders on this team. And I will do that, I promise the rest of the year every Hawkeye team will be locked in and ready to go.”
The Hawkeyes weren’t ready on Thursday night, something you can’t do in the Big Ten.
An offense that has had an efficient hum instead sputtered and wheezed. Defensively, the Hawkeyes were, at times, too aggressive, which left openings the Hoosiers filled with precision.
Indiana’s 23-3 second-half run was a clinic for the Hawkeyes, who perhaps needed a humbling.
“You know, I think as a team you have to make every game as the most important game on your schedule,” Garza said. “And I think, as a team, we definitely could have been a lot more locked in in practice.”
Garza had 28 points, but didn’t get much help from elsewhere.
Joe Wieskamp had 16 points, but only one in the second half. He got only two shots, and Garza even took the blame for that.
“I’ve got to do a better job of dealing with the double-team, and I needed to do that,” Garza said.
“We became a little too reliant on Luka,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “And, I mean, he gets 28. But we really I think became too reliant on him.”
Garza faced his usual double-team, but he’s been able to either a.) work through that or b.) kick it out to someone else.
Indiana clogged the lane, because the Hawkeyes weren’t making shots — they were 5-of-23 in 3-pointers for the game, 1-of-10 in the second half.
There were times when Garza would get fouled, or turn the ball over inside, and he would look around in frustration, hands raised in a “Where’s the help?” look.
The Hoosiers shot 60 percent in the second half, 49.1 percent for the game.
“All in all, if we get some stops, we can win an ugly game like that,” Garza said. “And then it’s an ugly win for us instead of a terrible loss.
“I think as a team, we could do a better job communicating. We can’t have two guys on one at any point. I think that’s what killed us. We were a day late and a dollar short on a lot of things.”
“To beat good teams you have to play better defense than that,” McCaffery said. “I think you can talk about a lot of things, but it starts with that. They were able to move the ball, give them credit. They executed and they moved it, they shared it. I thought they played harder, and we still had a shot. So we did not play well, we got outplayed, and that happens. And you're right, you got to learn from it. You don't want to let it linger.”
Garza pointed out another reality — there are still 12 games left in the Big Ten schedule.
“We’re going to try to make this motivation, a wake-up call, something like that,” Garza said. “Get some fire under us. Make sure we stay grounded. It’s a long season. We have 12 Big Ten games left, and all of our goals are still there, and are possible. I think we need to not do what we did tonight.”
The Hawkeyes are a veteran group, and it’s doubtful they’ll be rattled by one loss. The crucible of the Big Ten can squeeze even the best teams, and Iowa found that out on Thursday night.
“It’s upsetting that we weren’t able to play at a level that we know that we can,” Garza said. “We understand that. This has to be used as a lesson.”