Iowa Men's Basketball

Road is rocky for Iowa men's basketball yet again

Despite Luka Garza's 38 points, Hawkeyes to 1-6 on road in Big Ten with 89-77 loss to Indiana

Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis (4) dunks against Iowa in the Hoosiers' 89-77 men's basketball win over the Hawkeyes Thur
Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis (4) dunks against Iowa in the Hoosiers' 89-77 men's basketball win over the Hawkeyes Thursday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. (Doug McSchooler/Associated Press)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — “This is the state of basketball,” says the narrator in the pregame video introducing the Indiana men’s basketball team to Assembly Hall’s assembled fans.

It’s more like the state of shock for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes fell hard in Indiana for the second-straight week. This time it was physically as well as on the scoreboard. Last Wednesday, Purdue plastered Iowa 104-68 in West Lafayette. Here Thursday night, the Hoosiers defeated the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes, 89-77.

Hey, let’s not go too deep into this without noting Hawkeye center Luka Garza scored 38 points. If we’re going to start taking for granted a player who has hit 30-plus points five times, we’re missing something

OK, back to the result. The loss wasn’t the all of the price paid by Iowa (17-8, 8-6 Big Ten). Starting freshman guard CJ Fredrick sprained his right ankle with 5:10 left in the first half, and didn’t return to the game.

That’s never good, and is made worse by the fact the Hawkeyes play at Minnesota at noon on Sunday. They are 1-6 in conference away games, with the only win at last-place Northwestern.

Iowa has allowed an average of 90.5 points in those road losses. The solution?

“Just go play better, play better defense,” said Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery. “There’s nothing scientific.”

That will almost surely have to be done without Fredrick, who averages 10 points and has made 46.7 percent of his 3-pointers.

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“It’s tough,” Garza said. “He’s our most-reliable 3-point shooter, him and Joe Wieskamp. He presents huge for us on the defensive end as well. We usually put him on the best or second-best guard. He’s a tough, hard-nosed player. In big runs he hits big shots.”

Fredrick missed two games in January with a stress reaction in his left foot. Iowa lost at Nebraska, then beat Maryland at home in his absence.

“We’ve beat teams without him before and we’re going to try to do that,” Garza said.

“We just need other guys to step up,” McCaffery said. “Connor’s (McCaffery) got to step up, BK (Bakari Evelyn), (Joe) Toussaint. We’ll get Cordell (Pemsl) back (after a one-game suspension).”

Iowa got just a total of seven points from starters Connor McCaffery and Toussaint Thursday. Wieskamp had 16, but just three in the first half.

Iowa trailed by as much as 20 points after halftime and was never closer than 10.

This game turned early. It happened when the Hoosiers inserted senior guard Devonte Green five minutes or so into the game.

Green popped in two 3-pointers within 34 seconds to give the Hoosiers a 14-13 lead. Then he popped in two more within 27 seconds as Indiana’s lead shot up to 25-16. He scored 15 points in 4:32, and had 18 of his team-high 27 points in the first half, which ended with the Hoosiers ahead 49-34.

Behind Green’s barrage, Indiana hit its first five 3-point tries and finished 11-for-21. Not bad for a team averaging just 30.5 percent from that distance in Big Ten games before Thursday. Green made 7 of 11 3s. He made 7 of 27 over the seven games that preceded this one, the last four of which were losses.

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“The guy made seven,” McCaffery said. “Got to give him credit. He’s done that before.”

Green actually made eight 3s against Ohio State in last year’s Big Ten tournament, and he scored 30 points against an excellent Florida State team earlier this season. But you can’t let a guy have an explosion like Green had in the first half and expect a good ending.

“We dug ourselves a hole in that time period that we never really could get back out of,” Garza said.

Iowa’s Ryan Kriener said the loss boiled down to too many turnovers (19), allowing too many Indiana offensive rebounds (16), and Green’s run.

“We take away two of those three, we win the game,” Kriener said. “You can’t overcome all three.”

Iowa’s offense was Garza and, uh, more Garza. The Big Ten’s leading scorer had 21 of his points by halftime. There was a stretch of 8:53 in the first half when Garza was the only Iowa player who got on the board.

It was Garza’s fifth game of 30-plus points. Like his 44-point night at Michigan and his 34-point game against Penn State in Philadelphia, it wasn’t enough.

“He didn’t get a lot of help,” McCaffery said.

Garza made 14 of 22 shots, drew seven fouls, blocked four shots, sank three 3-pointers.

He is averaging 26.9 points in conference games. This was his 10th-straight game of at least 20 points. The last Iowa player to put up 10 straight 20s was Fred Brown, in the 1970-71 season.

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Austin Ash, a walk-on guard from Mount Vernon High School, played the last 5:10 of the first half. His one point topped four of his scholarship teammates who played in the half.

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