IOWA CITY — The start for Luka Garza and the Iowa basketball team wasn’t just ugly Thursday. It was a little bit embarrassing.
The 6-foot-11 Garza missed the first five shots he attempted and a couple of them were blocked by a 6-7 guy. Most of his teammates endured similar struggles, and the Hawkeyes found themselves trailing an upstart North Florida team for much of the first half.
It didn’t last. Garza made 12 of the 13 shots he attempted after that early stretch, collected 29 points and 12 rebounds and the Hawkeyes recovered from those early struggles to roll to an 83-68 victory over the visiting Ospreys at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
A series of defensive stands early in the second half played a big role and the Hawkeyes also got major contributions from Joe Wieskamp, Jack Nunge and freshman Joe Toussaint, but it really was the Luka Garza Show for the second straight game.
“He’s just a beast in the post,” Wieskamp said of the Hawkeyes’ junior center. “It’s really hard to handle him down low, especially when your biggest guy is 6-7, 6-8. There’s just no way to stop him.”
Garza, who already led the Big Ten in scoring coming in, now has 59 points in the past two games.
“The other guys are doing a great job of putting me in good positions and I’m just trying to finish when I get the ball,” Garza said. “I think I’ve been doing a decent job, but there’s a lot of things I can improve on, especially as a free throw shooter.”
Garza said he knew North Florida senior Wajid Aminu was the Atlantic Sun defensive player of the year last season and one of the leading shot-blockers in the nation. But it still surprised him when the 6-7 Aminu swatted away four Iowa shots in the first few minutes of the game.
“I hadn’t really played anybody like that this year so the first few possessions I didn’t do a great job against him,” Garza said, “but then I settled down and got back to my game.”
He scored his first points on an inside move with 13 minutes, 40 seconds to go in the first half and then just took off. He scored 14 straight points in one stretch later in the half on a mixture of layups, 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and free throws.
“He missed a few early,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They were banging him pretty good. But he just adjusts. … I thought he was really special in terms of understanding what we needed tonight.”
Despite that, North Florida (4-2) held the lead for much of the first half. The Ospreys, who lead the country in 3-point field goals, tossed in 12 more Thursday, including six by point guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa.
You have free articles remaining.
The Hawkeyes finally got the lead for good on a Nunge-led surge at the end of the first half, making it 39-35 at the break.
Then they simply took over in the second half. Wieskamp got a dunk off a CJ Fredrick lob pass, Fredrick scored on the break after a Nunge steal and Fredrick fired in a 3-pointer off a Nunge pass.
“We got the dunk to start, which always is a momentum builder, but it was the consecutive stops that let us get the lead to 17,” McCaffery said.
Another 10-point run that included 3s by Garza and Nunge turned the game into a rout. The lead reached 24 at one point.
“We came in at halftime and we got together before Coach even got in there and said ‘Hey, we’ve got to get stops,’” Toussaint said. “We knew they would shoot the ball pretty decent. They shot 50 percent at halftime from the 3-point line and we just said ‘No more.’”
Wieskamp finished with 14 points and eight rebounds while Nunge added 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Toussaint, rapidly becoming a crowd favorite, contributed 10 points and four assists, including a slick pass through traffic to Garza for a dunk down the stretch.
Gandia-Rosa led the Ospreys with 18 points and seven assists with Carter Hendricksen adding 17 points and nine rebounds.
Iowa 83, N. Florida 68
NORTH FLORIDA (4-2) — Hendricksen 5-9 4-4 17, James 2-5 0-0 4, Aminu 6-16 1-2 13, Escobar 4-10 2-2 12, Gandia-Rosa 6-11 0-0 18, Endicott 0-3 1-2 1, Balogun 0-1 0-0 0, Burkhardt 0-4 0-0 0, Adedoyin 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 24-61 8-10 68.
IOWA (3-1) — Nunge 5-11 0-0 11, Garza 12-18 3-6 29, Fredrick 2-6 0-0 5, C.McCaffery 0-2 0-0 0, Wieskamp 6-12 1-2 14, Pemsl 0-3 2-4 2, Kriener 2-3 3-4 7, Till 0-0 0-0 0, Evelyn 0-4 0-0 0, Toussaint 3-5 4-4 10, Ash 0-0 0-0 0, Bohannon 2-8 0-0 5. Totals 32-72 13-20 83.
Halftime—Iowa 39-35. 3-Point Goals—North Florida 12-29 (Gandia-Rosa 6-9, Hendricksen 3-7, Escobar 2-6, Adedoyin 1-1, Aminu 0-1, Balogun 0-1, Burkhardt 0-4), Iowa 6-22 (Garza 2-2, Fredrick 1-2, Wieskamp 1-3, Nunge 1-5, Bohannon 1-6, Evelyn 0-2, C.McCaffery 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—North Florida 32 (Hendricksen 9), Iowa 44 (Garza 12). Assists—North Florida 15 (Gandia-Rosa 7), Iowa 22 (C.McCaffery 7). Total Fouls—North Florida 18, Iowa 10. A—9,389 (15,500).