Iowa Men's Basketball

So far, Luka Garza is a point-scoring, shot-making machine

Hawkeyes center averaging 33.5 points, has taken just 29 shots

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) gets past Southern University's Damiree Burns during Garza's 41-point performance in Iowa's
Iowa center Luka Garza (55) gets past Southern University’s Damiree Burns during Garza’s 41-point performance in Iowa’s 103-76 win over the Jaguars Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

OK, it’s not going to be that easy for Luka Garza many more times. Is it?

Iowa’s senior center faced a Southern University team without a lot of size and with a defensive strategy that seemed flawed.

The Jaguars doubled down on not doubling down defensively on Garza in the first half, and the big man made all 12 of his field-goal tries and had a 36-point first half in Iowa’s 103-76 win in Iowa City. He finished 14-of-15 from the field.

The baskets came quickly and easily. It was a vivid reminder to any Hawkeyes opponent without quality post players that they’ll have to concede shots to other Iowa players or suffer similar indignities in the paint.

According to ESPN, the only other player to score 40 points and shoot at least 90 percent in a game in the last decade was Connecticut’s Amida Brimah in 2014.

After handling North Carolina Central and Southern, Iowa (2-0) gets one more game you would chalk up as an automatic win Thursday night when it hosts Western Illinois. In the meantime, let’s look at what Garza has done.

Besides averaging 33.5 points, he has made 86.2 percent of his shots (25 of 29) including 3 of 4 3-pointers. A 68 percent free throw-shooter last year, Garza has made 14 of his 16 foul shots this season for 87.5 percent.

If he hovers in the 75-80 percent range it would be a boon for the Hawkeyes. Garza made 80.4 percent as a sophomore, so he’s capable.

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ESPN also says if Garza scores 20 or more points against Western Illinois, he’ll tie former North Carolina State player T.J. Warren for the most consecutive 20-point games of any Division I player in the last 20 years, with 19.

Warren, now an Indiana Pacer, scored 516 points over his final 19 games as a collegian, a 27.1-point clip, in 2014.

In his second college game, Oklahoma’s Trae Young began a streak of 18 consecutive 20-point outings. He averaged 31.1 points and 9.6 assists over those games, and left for the NBA after that 2017-18 season.

No Big Ten player had 16 straight 20-point games since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson in 1987.

The competition will stiffen (North Carolina, Iowa State, Gonzaga, three Big Ten games) in December. Garza’s averages will drop, because nobody averages 33.5 points in the Big Ten.

Not in the last 50 years, anyway.

Now for a team thing to close this: Iowa, ranked No. 5 by Associated Press, could go up to No. 3 in the next poll because No. 3 Villanova lost to Virginia Tech Saturday night and No. 4 Virginia was upset by San Francisco Friday.

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

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