Iowa's Luka Garza scores 34 points in 17 minutes in rout over Iowa State in Cy-Hawk game

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa all-American center Luka Garza was unusually quiet Friday ... until he was very loud.

Garza sat most of the first half of the No. 3 Hawkeyes' 105-77 win over Iowa State, and seemed to take that personally. When the second half started, he was ready to take it out on the Cyclones.

The only question was whether Garza was going to make a two-point shot or a 3-pointer. He sank five of each after intermission, without missing. His 3-pointers never even touched the rim. Each time, Garza retreated downcourt and held up his shooting hand, as if to say: I'm unstoppable right now.

He was.

At one point, Garza scored 21 straight Hawkeye points. He was a one-man wrecking crew.

Garza scored 34 points in only 17 minutes (you read that right) before heading to the bench for good after helping the Hawkeyes build a 25-point lead. It was the fourth time in five games this season he's eclipsed 30 points.

But never has it happened with such suddenness, and such force. Garza seemed to take the fight right out of the Cyclones (1-2) to help the Hawkeyes win a third consecutive game in this rivalry.

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Iowa center Luka Garza (55) reacts after making a 3-point basket during a NCAA non-conference Cy-Hawk men's basketball game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Here's what we learned:

Joe Toussaint provides a spark

The sophomore backup point guard ended up with seven assists and helped the Hawkeyes force two second-half shot-clock violations in his most extended playing time of the season. Starter Jordan Bohannon struggled with his 3-point shooting, so Toussaint was the perfect answer. He scored four points but more importantly brought an intensity to the proceedings that Iowa needed.

Early lull for Iowa creates brief drama

The Hawkeyes ran out to a 9-2 lead in the opening two minutes of play, prompting a timeout by Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. Iowa seemed to be too satisfied with that fast start, however, and the Cyclones quickly became the aggressors, making five consecutive shots to pull within two points. At the first media timeout, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery benched his top three players, Garza, Joe Wieskamp and Jordan Bohannon. Things didn’t turn around immediately, but Iowa maintained its lead and was getting productive minutes from backup point guard Joe Toussaint, until he was called for a second foul and sent to the bench. It was a needed lesson for the Hawkeyes not to relinquish their intensity, even when heavy favorites and with an early lead. Iowa State is a proud team and made Iowa pay, at least for a few minutes.

Getting by without Garza

For the first time this season, the Hawkeyes experienced a first half with Garza planted on the bench with two fouls. It has long been a Fran McCaffery belief that a player must be protected from getting three fouls by halftime, even when it’s his star. Garza got his second with nearly 11 minutes left and the Hawkeyes leading by eight points. Even after the Cyclones rallied to take a brief lead, McCaffery stuck with his strategy, using Jack Nunge and even freshman Keegan Murray at the center spot. It all turned out OK when Nunge produced 15 points and eight rebounds and Iowa went on a late 12-0 run to lead 52-41 at intermission.

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm calls out to players during a NCAA non-conference Cy-Hawk men's basketball game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

A major gulf

Iowa State knew it had a lot of retooling to do this season with four freshmen and seven new players in the lineup, and that was evident in a loss to South Dakota State last week. This loss to the Hawkeyes, though, showed the gulf between Iowa State and the country’s best.

"I know in December it was going to be like this for us at times until we figure out what it takes and the alignments we need to go with," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. 

That is a problem given the Cyclones play in the Big 12, which is full of top-25 teams and potential All-Americans.

It’s early, Iowa State was coming off a long layoff and these Hawkeyes are talented and experienced, but the second-half beatdown should serve as a warning for the Cyclones of how far they have to go — and go quickly with league play starting next week — if they want to at least be competitive in the Big 12.

"You can’t dwell on it," Rasir Bolton said after posting 18 points and five rebounds. "You can’t get the game back. You can’t go back in time. You take it to the chin, you leave the taste in your mouth and you keep going."

Starting lineup switch for Cyclones

It took just two games for Iowa State coach Steve Prohm to make a change to his starting lineup as Tyler Harris went to the bench in favor of freshman Darlinstone Dubar.

The switch didn’t provide a jumpstart for the Cyclones, who fell behind 9-2 in the opening minutes. Dubar’s impact was negligible while Harris did provide a boost of shooting off the bench.

Harris started the second half while Dubar came off the bench.

"We’re learning on the fly," Prohm said. "I like having my seven, eight guys and rolling with it, but we haven’t had a chance to figure it out yet. We wanted to see what some different guys looked like in some different situations."

Harris, a junior, transferred to Iowa State this summer after two seasons at Memphis, where he went from averaging 25 minutes per game as a freshman to 20 as a sophomore. In his first two starts of the season, Harris shot 38.9 percent from the floor, and, at 5-foot-9, his size presents mismatch issues on both ends of the floor. 

Dubar arrived in Ames as a three-star recruit. He drew praise from Prohm after his first two career games for providing an energy boost off the bench and being able to play multiple positions as a 6-foot-6 wing. His insertion into the starting lineup gave Iowa State length on the floor at the jump that is missing with Harris in the lineup.

Going big

All offseason long, Prohm was adamant that his team would play small this season, eschewing the two-big lineup the Cyclones exclusively employed in last year’s 12-20 campaign.

Well, by game three, it was back in Prohm’s repertoire. 

Prohm matched freshman Xavier Foster with both Solomon Young and George Conditt IV at times on Friday evening, essentially playing with two centers on the floor.

Young and Conditt are proven non-shooters, but Foster has some pick-and-pop to his game and connected from distance in the first half. If Foster is able to stretch defenses, it’s possible the two-big look could be a viable option for the Cyclones, though it still presents some issues defensively against athletic and versatile teams.

Javan Johnson gives Iowa State a lift

One of the most critical positions for the Cyclones this season, even if they play big at times, is the small-ball four. It’s the linchpin that will allow a lot of lineups to work — or see them fail.

Javan Johnson looked up to making the position a plus for the Cyclones against Iowa.

Johnson finished with 20 points to help buoy the Cyclones’ offense.

Iowa State forward Javan Johnson (13) makes a basket as Iowa center Luka Garza (55) defends during a NCAA non-conference Cy-Hawk men's basketball game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

The 6-foot-6 junior transfer from Troy gives the Cyclones length, shooting and ballhandling from the four that is critical to facilitating small-ball lineups. He’s not a perfect fit as he’s not a plus-rebounder and his handle and decision-making can be shaky at times, but if he can consistently put the ball in the basket from that spot, Iowa State can figure the rest out around him.

There may not have been a lot for Iowa State to feel great about leaving Carver Hawkeye Arena, but Johnson’s performance is certainly something that projects positively heading into Tuesday’s Big 12 opener against Kansas State.

Iowa next hosts Northern Illinois at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Iowa State begins Big 12 Conference play by hosting Kansas State on Tuesday.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.