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Iowa center Luka Garza explains why he keeps talking about "stepping into the ring" these days. It's an interesting analogy: Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa's first game as a ranked men's basketball team couldn't have gone any better Wednesday.

A Thanksgiving Eve crowd that was the largest of the season was treated to a near-perfect first half of basketball. The No. 22 Hawkeyes (5-0) blitzed an overmatched Alabama State team and essentially sealed a win in the opening 10 minutes, cruising to a 105-78 finish that could have been more one-sided than that.

Sophomore center Luka Garza scored the first six points, prompting the Hornets to call a timeout just 84 seconds into the game.

Then freshman forward Joe Wieskamp went to work. He had a career-high 18 points in the first half alone, shaking off a pair of quiet games in New York in which he tallied only five points. The Hawkeyes won those games, and the 2K Classic tournament title, over No. 20 Oregon and Connecticut.

Backup point guard Connor McCaffery came on and had four assists in his first 5 minutes on the court.

It was that kind of evening for Iowa, which entered the national rankings Monday for the first time in three seasons.

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The first half was one for the record books. The Hawkeyes took a 68-37 lead, obliterating the mark for most first-half points scored in Fran McCaffery's nine seasons as head coach. The previous best was 59 two years ago against Savannah State.

Garza made all seven of his shots and had 19 points. Isaiah Moss put up a season-high 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.

Alabama State (2-3) was helpless to stop the Hawkeye onslaught and didn't seem particularly inclined to try. The Hornets turned it over 14 times in the first half, leading to 21 points.

The only suspense in the second half was whether Iowa would set a program record for points in a game. The pace slowed down and that mark of 126 points still stands.

The Hawkeyes next host Pittsburgh in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp discusses a quiet pair of games from him. "I'm still trying to figure out my role," the freshman says: Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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