Hawkeyes savor victory against Purdue, while Luka Garza and Jordan Bohannon reach milestones
IOWA CITY, Ia. — There were individual accomplishments wrapped inside team goals topped off by a victory that was extra satisfying for the Iowa men’s basketball team Tuesday.
The No. 5 Hawkeyes roughed up Purdue 70-55 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to win a Big Ten Conference opener for the first time since 2015. They beat the Boilermakers at their own bare-knuckle game, avenging four consecutive losses in which the Hawkeyes were the punching bags.
It was a complete victory that was a testament to teamwork. Nine Hawkeyes played, all of them getting at least 11 minutes, and they combined to hand out 21 assists on 24 successful field goals.
But the key number for a pair of Hawkeye stars was “3.”
Senior center Luka Garza climbed all the way to third on Iowa’s all-time scoring list, passing Greg Stokes and Acie Earl with 22 hard-earned points that give him 1,786 for his career. He’ll pass Aaron White for second with 74 more points, or about three typical games for him. Roy Marble’s 2,116 will be a season-long quest.
“The thing that I'm impressed with Luka the most is who he's doing it against, and recognizing that every team is scheming completely to stop him,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after Garza eclipsed the 20-point mark against a Big Ten opponent for the 17th consecutive game, a streak that hasn’t been seen in the league since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson in 1987.
“He's a guy that he continues to try to perfect his craft. Would've been easy to be satisfied with his freshman and sophomore year. He was terrific. He was good. He wanted to be great. Now he became great.”
Point guard Jordan Bohannon, a fifth-year senior who was the only Hawkeye to have previously experienced a victory over Purdue, made a 3-pointer in the final minute that was significant as well. It was the 300th of his career, already a school record. It put him 10th in Big Ten history in that category, 75 away from the top.
Neither milestone was more important than the win that put Iowa’s record at 7-1. But it was a fitting reminder that this Hawkeye team is a title contender, and embraced by so many fans, in part because of the generational talent that is on display.
Garza rests easy when foul trouble occurs, thanks to Iowa's depth
Iowa built a 37-27 halftime lead against Purdue (6-3, 1-1 Big Ten) and came out of intermission with 10 points in three minutes, five apiece from Garza and Joe Wieskamp. That made the Hawkeye advantage a comfortable 47-35.
Then the uncomfortable happened. Garza was whistled for fouls 51 seconds apart, giving him three for the game and a spot on McCaffery’s bench with 16 minutes and 34 seconds still to be played.
The Boilermakers undoubtedly saw an opportunity to cut into the deficit and leave the outcome in doubt into the final minutes of play. Iowa’s reserve players saw an opportunity to show that there are depths to this team that opponents must respect.
Purdue scored the next four points, but the Hawkeyes answered. Sophomore guard CJ Fredrick swished a 3-pointer off of an assist by Jack Nunge, Garza’s replacement. Wieskamp provided the next five points on his way to 17 for the game. Backup forward Patrick McCaffery was on the money on his 3-pointer from the left corner, right in front of Garza, who kept rising to his feet to cheer his team on.
Garza sat for five minutes. The Hawkeyes increased their lead in that time to 14 points. Purdue never got closer than seven.
Afterward, Garza went down the list of the four primary bench players, praising each of them for what they’ve added to a team that was short-handed for much of last season. In addition to Nunge and McCaffery, that included Joe Toussaint (four assists Tuesday) and Keegan Murray (seven points and three rebounds).
“It adds a whole different dimension to our team,” Garza said. “We were a really good team last year, but I think sometimes all five of us had to play 40 minutes.”
Fran McCaffery has been touting his depth as a great asset this winter. It’s easy to see why after what Iowa did Tuesday.
“We had fresh guys come in, and we got some buckets. Patrick gets a 3. Keegan dunks. Joe is pushing the ball. Jack had some buckets (actually one, but four points total, along with five rebounds and two assists on Fredrick 3-pointers),” McCaffery said.
“But defensively, he's a presence and he rebounds in traffic. So I like that group. They've been pretty good and solid in every area every time I've put them in.”
Certainly, Iowa wants to keep Garza out of foul trouble. He’s an all-American for a reason. But he was needed for only 31 minutes Tuesday against a massive Purdue post duo (Trevion Williams is 6-10 and Zach Edey 7-4). And that came in the middle of a stretch of three games in seven days for the Hawkeyes.
Keeping Garza fresh is also important.
Hawkeyes measure up in rebounding and defense, plus one telling statistic
The refrain from everyone associated with the Iowa basketball program heading into Tuesday’s game was that rebounding and defense would decide things. Those are two areas where Purdue had exposed the Hawkeyes in the past four meetings, winning those by a combined 80 points.
How did the Hawkeyes do in those regards?
“It was by far our best effort on the glass and defensively,” Fran McCaffery asserted.
“We had to stay connected and we had to keep the effort and intensity.”
McCaffery was particularly impressed with the pressure Iowa applied at the point of attack, forcing 14 turnovers and getting 20 valuable points off of them. Purdue made only 8 of 25 3-pointers.
Iowa also outrebounded Purdue 37-35 and allowed only seven second-chance points.
The most telling statistic of all, though, was free throws attempted. The team that establishes the most commanding inside presence is almost always going to force its way to the line.
The Hawkeyes made 10 of 14 free throws. Purdue attempted only three, missing two of those.
The numeral “1” in the free throws made category for the Boilermakers was the most staggering number in the stat packet.
“Limiting them to one shot just helped us a ton,” Garza said after beating Purdue for the first time in his storied career. “We knew we could get stops and we just had to secure the rebounds. And we did that.”
Iowa’s next game is at Minnesota at 7 p.m. Friday.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.