Iowa Men's Basketball

Illinois schooled by old-school Luka Garza and Iowa

Illinois coach Brad Underwood raves about Hawkeyes after 95-71 Ioss to them

Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) dunks in front of Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) during the second half of the Hawkeyes’ 95-71 men’s basketball win over Illinois Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Garza scored 20 points. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa forward Luka Garza (55) dunks in front of Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) during the second half of the Hawkeyes’ 95-71 men’s basketball win over Illinois Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Garza scored 20 points. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — You may have heard it said that Luka Garza has “old man” game.

Tell it to the 6-foot-11 Iowa sophomore forward, and he won’t be insulted in the slightest. He says he has learned from the game films of former NBA stars like Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon, neither of whom have played in the last 15 years.

When told Sunday that Illinois Coach Brad Underwood compared him to 6-11 Jack Sikma, who was in the NBA from 1978 to 1991, Garza smiled with pride.

“I’ve studied Jack Sikma since I was a little kid,” Garza said after he scored 20 points in Iowa’s 95-71 romp over the Fighting Illini.

“My dad always put the greats in front of me to watch. The Sikma reverse pivot is an iconic move. I try to use that as best I can. It’s an honor to be compared to one of the greats.”

Here’s what Underwood said after Sunday’s game:

“Garza is Jack Sikma. He’s a guy with a million moves and he’s a load.”

The reverse pivot was Sikma’s signature move. It’s a 180-degree pivot. Sikma, a seven-time NBA All-Star, would get the ball with his back to the basket and either step back for a face-up jumper or he’d drive to the basket.

“You can’t go to a basketball practice where coaches aren’t coaching the move,” Garza said. “I think people don’t utilize it enough. I try utilizing it when I can. I just try to reverse-pivot, create space, and get a midrange jumper. I think a lot of people on our team have started to use it.”

Actually, Garza made just a cameo appearance in Underwood’s litany of praise for the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s sports marketing department should excerpt Underwood’s comments if it wants to sell men’s basketball tickets.

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“That’s being taken out to the woodshed and whooped today,” Underwood said. “I’ve said it many times, I think Iowa is one of the top three teams in our league, talent-wise. They’re experienced, they’re a veteran team.

“(Joe) Wieskamp, everybody knows how good a player he was in the high school ranks. He’s obviously made the adjustment at a very high level.”

The Illini are 5-13 overall, 1-6 in the Big Ten. They start two freshmen and two sophomores. Iowa had a season like that last year with a slew of sophs and frosh. Now, the Hawkeyes are 5-3 in the conference, 16-3 overall.

“That’s what experience does,” said Underwood.

“Then, there’s an NBA prospect in Tyler Cook, and Wieskamp, that kid’s going to make a lot of money someday. Those guys, that’s a veteran ball team. They have depth, they have size. I hope we grow up like that, absolutely.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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