Oregon 95, Iowa 80: Hawkeyes swamped by Ducks, bow out of NCAA tourney in Luka Garza's last game

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Luka Garza hugged his teammates and his opponents, flecked some tears out of his eyes and began the long journey to the Iowa bench with 35 seconds left in Monday's NCAA Tournament game.

The senior's storied career was over sooner than expected, as was the Hawkeyes' dreams of a title run here, undone by an Oregon onslaught.

"It all hit me at once," Garza said, "looking up at the scoreboard and knowing I'll never wear this jersey again."

The Ducks swamped the Hawkeyes 95-80 in a second-round game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Garza finished with 36 points, padding his total as Iowa's all-time scoring leader but leaving despondent over not delivering more victories.

The dilemma for Iowa on Monday was obvious: The starting lineup wasn't athletic enough to handle Oregon's skilled offense; and the bench players weren't experienced enough to thrive against a veteran team on this stage.

More:How Iowa stars Garza, Wieskamp and Bohannon meshed and are aiming at historic final ride in NCAA Tournament

That left it up to Garza and wing Joe Wieskamp to try to hold things together with a revolving cast of teammates. And that wasn't nearly enough. Wieskamp finished with 17 points. Redshirt freshman Patrick McCaffery added 10. 

The loss was the 11th in the past 12 second-round NCAA Tournament games for Iowa, its last Sweet 16 appearance coming in 1999.

Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) shoots over Oregon Ducks forward Eric Williams Jr. (50) during the first half in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament Mar 22, 2021 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Iowa (22-9), a second seed in this tournament for the first time since 1987, was able to keep pace with Oregon for the initial 16 minutes, when the score was tied 46-46. But the frenetic action was more suited to the Ducks, and they pulled away at the end of the first half and never let up while the Hawkeyes tried a variety of lineups that ultimately could never get the deficit below 10 points.

Seven seed Oregon (21-6) advanced to the second round without playing a game. First-round opponent VCU had three positive tests for COVID-19 and had to forfeit Saturday’s contest.

It was an unsatisfactory conclusion to the careers of Garza, point guard Jordan Bohannon and likely Wieskamp, a junior who is a projected NBA Draft pick. They won two NCAA Tournament games, in 2019 against Cincinnati and Saturday vs. Grand Canyon. They all said they returned to play this year with the goal of getting a championship, but fell five victories short.

The Ducks advance to face the winner of Monday's late USC-Kansas game in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. The Pac-12 has been the story of this tournament, with all four of its teams still alive by early Monday afternoon. The Big Ten, considered the nation's best conference during the regular season, is down to two teams — Michigan and Maryland, who play later Monday.

Here’s what we learned:

Luka Garza had a sizeable advantage

It was no secret that the Hawkeyes were going to lean on their all-American center in a matchup against an Oregon team with no starter taller than 6-foot-6. Garza is always option No. 1 for Iowa, and he was on the attack early, posting up, making baskets and drawing fouls. He had 22 points in the first half, five of them from the free-throw line.

Oregon basketball shows its length on the perimeter

The Ducks also have no starter shorter than 6-5. And that size was particularly troublesome for the Hawkeyes to defend at the 3-point arc. Oregon missed its first four 3-point attempts, then sprayed the ball around to make seven of their next 10. The Hawkeyes, with 6-foot-1 Jordan Bohannon, 6-3 CJ Fredrick playing through plantar fasciitis and 6-foot Joe Toussaint coming off the bench, just could not contest Oregon’s shooters. The Ducks scored the final 10 points of the first half to take a 56-46 lead at halftime, and then kept pouring it on.

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.