Leistikow: Luka Garza channels inner Lafester Rhodes, but No. 3 Iowa's rout of Cyclones was a team effort
IOWA CITY, Ia. — There is a player in Cy-Hawk basketball history who will forever be remembered for his historically dominant and streaky shooting performance.
And now, Lafester Rhodes has some company.
Iowa’s Luka Garza scored 21 second-half points in a span of 5 minutes, 15 seconds — maybe the most incredible flurry of many for the all-American center in his Hawkeye career — to turn this matchup of intrastate rivals into a blowout.
On a night that saw Garza on a black folding chair more than he was on the court because of foul trouble …
On a night when the three Iowa guards who made 17 3-pointers against North Carolina made two …
On a night that had Fran McCaffery screaming at his players about their porous defense during a second-half timeout …
“We’re a very deep team," Iowa forward Jack Nunge said. "We have a lot of guys that can score at any moment. We saw that both Tuesday (in a 93-80 win against No. 14 North Carolina) and tonight; we had guys step up when we needed it.”
And now, for the first time in three decades, this sentence can be written: The Iowa men’s basketball team has a three-game winning streak against Iowa State. The average victory margin, by the way, is an impressive 19.3 points.
"To be able to do that, I think, says a lot about our players and their ability to focus and concentrate," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said, "and kind of put the distractions aside. There are always distractions around rivalry games."
The last time the Hawkeyes won three straight against the Cyclones was early in the Tom Davis era, from 1988-90. It would have been five in a row back then, if not for the legendary 54-point night from Rhodes in a thrilling, 102-100 win at Hilton Coliseum in 1987.
This game didn't require overtime like that one did, but Garza left his Cy-Hawk mark. The Hawkeyes’ national player of the year candidate sat out the final 10:48 of the first half with two fouls. He picked up an early third in the second half and sat for another stretch.
But after returning, he went from 13 points to 34 as a one-man offense — and Iowa’s lead exploded from 68-55 to 89-64 before he checked out with 5:45 remaining.
Let's look at the play-by-play to appreciate the surge:
Garza 3-pointer, 12:04 to go.
Garza 3-pointer, 11:27 to go.
Garza 3-pointer, 10:25 to go.
Garza 3-pointer, 9:51 to go.
Garza putback of Joe Toussaint miss, 8:38 to go.
Garza layup, 7:49 to go.
Garza 3-pointer, 7:24 to go.
Garza putback of Keegan Murray miss, 6:49 to go.
"In practice during different points of my career, I've felt this hot," Garza said. "I've never hit this many 3s in a game."
Garza's 34 points came on 13-for-14 shooting (including 6-of-7 from 3-point range) in 16:32 of court time.
According to ESPN, that's the most points scored by a Division I player who played less than 20 minutes in a game over the past 25 seasons.
If the game had been more competitive, he might’ve pulled the Full Lafester, who was 20-for-31 on that night 33 years ago. Iowa's 105 points in this one is the most scored by either team in the Cy-Hawk series. The second-most? Iowa State's 102, in 1987.
Although Garza stole the show, team-wide domination explains why Iowa won by 28.
Nunge slid into Garza's center role for much of the first half and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes in his first Cy-Hawk game since 2017 — when he had 16 points in 23 minutes as a true freshman. Guess he likes playing against Iowa State.
Joe Toussaint had seven assists in just 13 minutes.
One of eight Iowans on the roster, Muscatine's Joe Wieskamp finished with 16 points and was assertive when Iowa needed points. He and third-year classmate CJ Fredrick (nine points in another solid outing) haven't yet experienced a loss to the Cyclones.
"It’s huge. That’s something CJ and I were talking about after the game," Wieskamp said. "... It’s pretty special.”
Iowa City brothers Connor and Patrick McCaffery combined for 13 points and 11 rebounds. Marion's Jordan Bohannon (in his fifth Cy-Hawk game) had three points and five assists and joined Kevin Boyle, Mark Gannon and Bobby Hansen as the only Hawkeyes to win four times against Iowa State.
And how about Austin Ash? The walk-on from Mount Vernon didn't even watch his 3-pointer go in with 26 seconds to go, running back on defense as soon as he released the shot. To celebrate, he motioned toward the dozens of family and friends in attendance and screamed.
"He knew it was money from the time it left his hand," Wieskamp beamed.
Ash will remember his 98 seconds of court time forever. That's how much this game means to Iowans.
Watching from his home in Okoboji with family, recent Hawkeye Ryan Kriener — Bohannon's best friend — relished the Cy-Hawk win. He wishes he could be a part of this Iowa team, but he's about to leave the U.S. for a professional career overseas. In a message to the Register, Kriener expressed how much he dislikes Iowa State ... and how much he likes this Iowa team.
"Man, these guys are fun to watch," Kriener wrote. "I love my guys. I miss being with them every day. Obviously, Luka had a special second half. But Jack’s game was awesome. I’m so happy for him and the way he’s playing right now. What a story. Joe W. seems to have his mojo back. CJ is just rock solid!! How about Ash’s 3 at the end where he ran back on D right away? Love these guys!"
Everyone in black and gold was an honorary Iowan on Friday. The list includes Garza, who had never been to this state until McCaffery recruited him to come here from Washington, D.C.
“Iowa’s going to be a part of me forever," said Garza, who had a tooth dislodged in last year's 84-68 win at Hilton Coliseum and has now become the latest Cy-Hawk legend. "I’ve just grown to understand what this rivalry means."
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.