Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa Hawkeyes' balance makes Northwestern dizzy Sunday in 96-73 blowout

5 double-digit scorers, 7 multiple-assists guys for first-place Iowa

Iowa forward Jack Nunge (2) celebrates with center Luka Garza (55) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball
Iowa forward Jack Nunge (2) celebrates with center Luka Garza (55) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Iowa won 96-73. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

EVANSTON, Ill. — Luka Garza was scoreless in the second half Sunday and it wasn’t a crisis for the Iowa men’s basketball team.

In fact, it caused nary a ripple.

Garza’s nation-leading scoring average dropped to 26.9 points per game after he had but 17 in the No. 5 Hawkeyes’ 96-73 win over Northwestern (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It mattered not, because the All-America center had help all over the place.

Four other Hawkeyes scored at least 11 points and the team shot 57.9 percent (33-of-57) from the field, its third-straight game of making at least 53.3 percent of their shots.

Iowa (12-2) got its fifth-straight win and moved into a tie for first place in the Big Ten at 6-1 with Michigan.

The Hawkeyes’ passing was as good as the shooting, perhaps better. Seven Iowa players had at least two assists.

Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick and Jordan Bohannon combined for 40 points and 8-of-14 3-point shooting.

“We were clicking on all cylinders today,” Fredrick said.

“We knew on defense they were going to fly at shooters and really dig on Luka. So we knew we were going to have drive-and-kick opportunities, catch-and-shoot opportunities.

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“You’re just giving three guys that have really high basketball IQs reads. We were able to make really good reads today.”

Rebounding was another Hawkeyes highlight. They had 40 to Northwestern’s 27, led by Garza’s 10. Iowa has out-rebounded every conference foe it has faced.

Garza did plenty of damage in the first half, hitting on a variety of post moves and jumpers to rack up those 17 points. He left the game for good with 11:59 left and his team up 69-42.

Whether it was Garza’s 24 minutes on the floor or 16 on the sideline, Iowa defended. With the exception of a first-half stretch when Boo Buie hit three straight 3-pointers, replacement Ryan Greer hit two more, and Northwestern erased a 10-point deficit.

Fran McCaffery lit into his Iowa team about its defense at the 7:57 timeout, then closed his remarks with “Everybody’s (expletive) open!”

Message received. The passing and defense were first-rate the rest of the way. Iowa’s halftime lead was 49-37 after freshman Keegan Murray stole the ball and drove for a dunk with four seconds left.

The Wildcats’ basketball souls on this day were basically taken. Iowa’s lead was 20 points by the first media timeout of the second half on its way to as much as 27.

Iowa’s bench produced 38 points. Jack Nunge had 12. Murray had eight points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

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When it was suggested to Nunge that he’s playing his best ball of the season lately, he said “I think that’s everybody, though.

“All the bench players are bringing that energy that we need. Our starters are doing a great job getting off to hot starts in the game.”

“It’s an example of our depth,” McCaffery said. “That’s absolutely critical in this league on the road.

“They’re playing together, they’re competing.”

Iowa hosts Indiana Thursday at 8 p.m. The Hawkeyes’ home game against Nebraska next Sunday has been postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Cornhuskers. No makeup date has been announced.

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

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