IOWA CITY — The 19th-ranked Iowa men’s basketball team exited on the winning side of a roller coaster Wednesday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Trailing 77-76 to Rutgers after seeing a 76-67 lead dissolve, the Hawkeyes did enough in the final 2:25 to earn their fourth-straight Big Ten win, 85-80 over the No. 24 Scarlet Knights.
Junior center Luka Garza had 28 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals for Iowa, which is 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten. Rutgers has the same records.
Iowa’s Connor McCaffery, scoreless until 16 seconds remained, made all four of his free throws after that to keep the Knights at bay. The last two, with 8.7 seconds remaining, were the game’s final points.
Garza scored nine points in a 2:55 stretch of the second half. His first two points in that time broke a 55-55 tie with 14:28 left. His final two upped Iowa’s lead to 67-59, and the Hawkeyes were ahead by as much as 10 before Rutgers rallied.
Joe Wieskamp scored 18 points for Iowa. Freshman point guard Joe Toussaint, who had just six points over his previous three games, scored 14 and played a determined floor game.
Rutgers had a 43-38 halftime lead after making eight of its last 10 field goals in the first half.
Scarlet Knights sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah had 13 points in the last 11 minutes in the half, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring two baskets on terrific low-post moves.
It was a game of runs in the first half. Rutgers popped to a 5-0 lead, then it was 5-5. A 10-0 burst capped with 3-pointers by CJ Fredrick and Ryan Kriener gave the Hawkeyes a 20-14 edge, causing Scarlet Knights Coach Steve Pikiell to call a timeout.
His team responded with six straight points to tie the game. Later in the half, the Knights used a 7-0 run to take a 35-28 lead.
Ron Harper Jr. of Rutgers, who scored 29 points after notching 27 here last March in a 76-62 win, got behind Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl for a basket with three seconds left to end the half on a sour note for the Hawkeyes. Making matters worse, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery got a technical foul on the way off the court after prolonged and passionate complaining to the officiating crew.
Apparently, McCaffery was upset because Iowa had fouls left to give on Rutgers’ last possession and Kriener tried to get one, but the refs didn’t call it. Caleb McConnell made one of the two free throws off the technical to start the second half. Harper followed with a dunk on the Knights’ subsequent possession.
It was McCaffery’s third technical of the season.
Iowa shot 61.5 percent (16-of-26) from the field in the half, but couldn’t use that for a lead because Rutgers shot 58.6 percent itself and had just five turnovers to the Hawkeyes’ eight.
Iowa’s next game is at home Monday at 7:30 p.m. against Wisconsin (12-7, 5-3). The Badgers play at Purdue Friday before coming to Iowa City.
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