Garza powers Hawkeye victory, with big assists from Nunge and Connor McCaffery

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Luka Garza commands double-teams. And on Friday he relished exploiting them.

Iowa’s junior center poured in a career-high 30 points in a dominating performance to lead the way in an 87-74 victory over Oral Roberts at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He added 10 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end.

“We knew we had to get the ball inside. We knew they doubled, so I had to get deep post position, and that was really my focus, try to avoid the double-team as much as I can so I can go right into my moves,” Garza said after making 12 of 19 shots.

The Hawkeyes, fresh off a disappointing 93-78 loss to DePaul, trailed for only 17 seconds Friday. Four other players also reached double figures in scoring: Jack Nunge (14), Joe Wieskamp (11), Jordan Bohannon (11) and Connor McCaffery (10).

“He is one of those guys who has been getting doubled his whole life,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of his 6-foot-11 post player. “He typically goes quickly. We’ve got to maybe do a little better job of hitting cutters, getting it to the weak side, re-post. But he is so crafty and quick with those moves a lot of times he can get there before the double-team does.”

The Hawkeyes (2-1) next face North Florida here at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Golden Eagles fell to 1-3.

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) drives to the basket over Oral Roberts forward Elijah Lufile during the second half Friday. Garza finished with a career-high 30 points.

Message received by Nunge

Iowa’s starting power forward scored only two points in 25 minutes of court time in the first two games. Fran McCaffery pulled him aside this week and told him to be more aggressive. Nunge obviously listened.

He drove to the rim on Iowa’s first possession but missed the layup. Then he stepped out to hit a 3-pointer for his first made basket of the season, visibly relieved as he retreated downcourt. He made a baseline jumper, got another basket on a post move and made one more 3-pointer, all before halftime. Nunge finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, his first career double-double.

“It feels good. But I think that I can bring that to every game, try to get a lot more,” Nunge said.

Connor McCaffery in command

The sophomore point guard had his best half of the young season Friday, scoring nine points with five assists and no turnovers. The 6-5 left-hander was effective driving to the basket, where he was able to finish. He made all three of his free throws. He played a team-high 16 minutes in the first half after backup Joe Toussaint picked up two fouls. He finished with 10 points and seven assists.

“I kind of try to pick my moments. If I see a lane, I’ll attack it depending on who’s guarding me. They had a lot of smaller guys on me that I knew I could take advantage of. So I did that. I tried to attack them,” Connor McCaffery said. “It wasn’t necessarily a thing for this game. I think I’m going to continue to try to do that and be more aggressive.”

Iowa extends its defense, and gets results

The Hawkeyes mixed up zone and man-to-man defenses, but extended both at times and seemed to take Oral Roberts by surprise. Iowa was active, forcing 10 first-half turnovers that generated 15 points. The Golden Eagles did adjust, committing only two second-half turnovers.

“We were just up the line, up in the gaps if they were driving,” Nunge said. “We knew they had quick guards who liked to attack off the dribble. We just knew their gameplan.”

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

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