Maryland gets Luka Garza in foul trouble, gets revenge on Iowa
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The college basketball talk in the Washington, D.C., metro area this week centered around Iowa’s Luka Garza — a local kid that got away to help the Hawkeyes, who were coming to town.
Garza, though, had a frustrating homecoming Thursday night in front of many of his family members and former coaches. And the Hawkeyes were reminded of the impact and importance of their star junior.
No. 15 Maryland took advantage of Garza’s foul trouble and a disjointed Iowa performance to end the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes' five-game winning streak in a 82-72 final.
“We’re a different team with Luka. The more he’s out there, the better we are,” coach Fran McCaffery said in an obvious but profound statement after the game. “That kind of changes everything. But others have to step up.”
Garza still managed 21 points, but eight of them came in the final 87 seconds, with four rebounds in 25 minutes. He had been averaging 27.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 33.4 minutes in Big Ten play.
When he sat, Iowa couldn't piece together much support.
For the night, Iowa shot just 36.2%. Joe Wieskamp had 17 points and CJ Fredrick had 12 for Iowa, but the four starting guards combined to shoot just 12-for-39 for the night.
“We got off to a pretty hot start," Wieskamp correctly noted, as Iowa made four of its first six 3-pointers to take an 18-12 lead. But Iowa went 4-for-18 from 3 the rest of the way. "Then I think they picked it up a notch. They really got into our space. They’ve got some good, quick guards that are really good defenders. A lot of our drives, they were right on our hip, attached to us the whole time."
Two quick fouls on Garza changed the game’s complexion.
The front-runner for Big Ten player of the year was saddled with a pair of fouls in the first 4 minutes, 45 seconds.
“It’s always frustrating. It’s something I haven’t dealt with a lot this year," Garza said. "When you’re on the road in a tough environment, sometimes you get a couple ticky-tack ones. I’ve just got to do a better job of avoiding those as much as possible.”
Normally, two first-half fouls mean bench banishment with McCaffery, but with a player of Garza’s caliber, the Iowa coach was willing to give his big man a short leash.
McCaffery brought Garza back for two spurts late in the first half — a stretch of 4:12 in which Garza scored two quick buckets and the final 35 seconds. Iowa got to the locker room down only 36-32, despite its best player getting just 10 minutes and Ryan Kriener and Connor McCaffery also drawing two fouls each.
“There were some calls that maybe would’ve went our way or didn’t go our way, depending on where you’re playing," said Connor McCaffery, who fouled out for the second time in his career. "Whenever you’re on the road, it’s going to be tough.”
The risk of putting Garza back on the floor was worth it. McCaffery went to Riley Till, who earned his first action since Jan. 10, to help keep Iowa afloat until after halftime.
But after halftime, Garza and Maryland's Jalen Smith were whistled for a double foul with 15:32 to go. Garza got a fourth foul on a charging whistle with 7:55 to go and Iowa down, 57-49. It was hard for the Hawkeyes to find much rhythm all night long. They scored 14 points in the final 87 seconds, but only had 58 until then.
Anthony Cowan was bound to atone for his poor outing against Iowa last time.
Cowan, the Terrapins’ star senior guard, had a forgettable night in his trip to Iowa City on Jan. 10, a 67-49 Hawkeyes’ rout. Cowan was 2-for-10 that night with nine points and a minus-21 rating during his time on the floor.
But in this one, he came out blazing. He connected on his first 3-point try, just 76 seconds into the game, and had 12 first-half points on 4-for-5 shooting. Cowan, who averages 15.5 points a game, finished with 31 points and six assists.
“He’s really quick in the open court, so you’ve got to get back in transition," Fredrick said. "And a couple times, we just let him go right to the rim.”
On the impact of Thursday's outcome ...
This was the first game in a season-ending 11-game stretch in which the Hawkeyes were scheduled to play in (as of Thursday) nine matchups of the quadrant 1 variety in the NCAA NET rankings. The only non-quadrant 1 games are home against Purdue (Q2) and Nebraska (Q4).
What that means is that Iowa has a lot of chances at good resume-building wins for the NCAA Tournament, and any Quad 1 loss is not a terrible loss.
So, this won’t go down as a bad loss for the NCAA Tournament, but it does dampen Iowa’s ascent in the Big Ten Conference standings. Iowa fell to 15-6 overall and at 6-4 in the Big Ten was fifth in the league standings and two games behind leaders Michigan State and Illinois. Maryland moved to 17-4, 7-3 and split the season series with Iowa.
Sunday's Noon CT home game against the Illini (8-2 in league play) is next and is sold out.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 25 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.