IOWA CITY — This was a vivid reminder to the world. They aren’t Luka and the Lilliputians.
Yes, Luka Garza’s points-o-meter almost broke over the Hawkeyes’ first three games when he totaled 102 in three easy wins. Yes, Garza is a returning first-team All-America center who had hit the 20-point mark in his previous 19 games.
But as was known and talked about with relish by Iowa men’s basketball fans all through the offseason, the Hawkeyes have a lot of very capable players on offense.
Garza was Iowa’s fourth-leading scorer Tuesday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting, and it didn’t remotely resemble a disastrous thing for his team.
With Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick and Joe Wieskamp combining for 64 points and all 17 of Iowa’s 3-pointers, the No 3 Hawkeyes beat No. 16 North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 93-80.
Bohannon had 24 points, Fredrick 21 and Wieskamp 19. Bohannon was 7 of 16 from 3-point range. Fredrick and Wieskamp were each 5 of 7. It was the 2020-21 coming out party for each, because it was the first game in which an opponent had any sort of counter for the 6-foot-11 Garza.
“I think we’ve been capable of that all year,” Wieskamp said. “The first three teams couldn’t really match (Garza) in the post. He was having whatever he wanted down low.
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“I thought we showed all the threats we have out there today. A lot of guys can score the ball at a high rate, can shoot the heck out of the ball.”
Wieskamp hit four of his 3s in the first 7:07 to help stake Iowa to a 25-9 lead. Fredrick had 16 first-half points, capped by a 3 with just over a second left when his head fake lost Tar Heel freshman Caleb Love and he then swished his shot from the left corner.
North Carolina came out aggressive to start the second half, got some run-out baskets, and took its first lead with 9:52 left. But Bohannon hit 3-pointers to open and close a 14-0 explosion that gave the Hawkeyes an 81-68 edge with 6:55 left, and hit a 3 with 4:32 left to keep the Heels at bay.
“I really didn’t think I shot the ball well,” Bohannon said. “I just hit some big shots. I still think I had an off day shooting, to be honest with you.”
Iowa will take a lot more of them, thanks.
Wieskamp had a strong all-around game, with nine rebounds and five assists.
“I knew this was coming from Joe,” Garza said. “He’s a gamer. He comes out here on the biggest stage and plays his game.”
Wieskamp averaged 12 points in Iowa’s first three games, so he wasn’t invisible. But this was more like the guy who strung together three straight Big Ten games of at least 21 points last January.
“The first couple games I didn’t have as many opportunities,” Wieskamp said. “It’s been Luka, and Jack (Nunge) last game destroying everybody in the post. I always had the confidence.”
It must have been contagious. Fredrick matched his career-high in points and 3-pointers.
“He was spectacular all night long,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery.
Not to be overlooked, sophomore point guard Joe Toussaint and freshman forward Keegan Murray were in the game during that 14-0 run. Murray blocked a shot, played solid defense against the Carolina bigs, and converted a three-point play after he flew in for a put-back off a Garza miss.
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Toussaint had a reverse layup on a sweet Bohannon feed early in the run, and set up Bohannon’s 3 that pushed the lead to 81-68.
So, the weaponry was widespread. North Carolina came back at Iowa in the second half, and came back hard, but “We didn’t wilt,” McCaffery said.
“We stayed the course, and we got hot again.
“We performed like I hoped and want to say I expected for a veteran club playing against a really good team.”
Iowa returns to play here Friday at 8 p.m. against Iowa State.
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