Iowa wastes another huge night from Luka Garza in loss at Indiana

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For the second time in nine days, Iowa’s basketball team experienced a rotten weeknight in Indiana.

Last Wednesday, it was a 36-point drubbing at Purdue.

On Thursday night at Assembly Hall, the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes not only lost the game, 89-77, at Indiana but lost starting guard CJ Fredrick to a game-ending right-ankle injury that didn’t look good.

The Hoosiers, who entered having lost four straight games, were naturally red-hot from 3-point range out of the gates.

They made their first five 3-point attempts, all during an incredible 19-point surge in a span of 3 minutes, 13 seconds. They entered the game ranked 12th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting and finished with a season-high 11 3-pointers on 21 attempts (52.4%). Devonte Green made seven of them and finished with 27 points.

To Iowa senior big man Ryan Kriener, this felt like one that got away. And it did early, as Indiana flipped a 9-6 deficit into a 25-16 lead before Fran McCaffery called timeout.

“I really wish we played them again at home," Kriener said. "If we’re fortunate enough to play them again in the Big Ten tournament, I’ll definitely be looking forward to that one.” 

It was eight days earlier that a points-challenge Purdue team rained in 19 3-pointers on 34 attempts against the Hawkeyes in a 104-68 rout.

It's hardly a hot take that Iowa’s defense on the Big Ten road certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

“You just try to be mentally tough. We were better in that area tonight," McCaffery said. "We weren’t tough at all on the road at Purdue."

Indiana led by as many as 20 in the second half (60-40). The Hawkeyes were down by double digits for the game's final 30:50.

Iowa fell to 17-8 overall, 8-6 in conference play (tied for fifth with Rutgers) with another road game coming up at Noon CST Sunday in Minnesota. Indiana (16-8, 6-7) moved into a four-way tie for ninth place. 

At least Luka Garza showed up.

But doesn't he always?

The national player of the year candidate scored 21 of Iowa’s 34 first-half points. At one point, he had 27 of Iowa's 45.

“He’s doing what we needed him to. He didn’t get a lot of help," McCaffery said. "We’ve got to get some other guys to step up and help him.”

The Big Ten's leading scorer finished with 38 points, tied for the ninth-most in a game in Iowa history. He was 14-for-22 from the floor, 7-for-8 from the line and grabbed eight rebounds. Maybe most remarkably, the 6-foot-11 junior played all but 20 seconds of the game — a testament to his conditioning. 

Even though he was hounded by defenders, he found ways to score. His mid-range game was impressive.

Iowa is 0-3 this season in Garza's three highest-scoring games. He scored a career-high 44 earlier this season in a 103-91 loss at Michigan and 34 in an 89-86 loss to Penn State in Philadelphia.

With Fredrick out, Fran McCaffery found few helpful options.

The freshman guard left the game with 5:24 remaining in the first half after a non-contact injury along the sideline. His family went back into the locker room to hang out with Fredrick during halftime and much of the second half.

“He’s our most reliable 3-point shooter, he and Joe Wieskamp," Garza said. "It’s tough. He (is) huge for us on the defensive end, as well. We usually put him on the best or second-best guard. He’s a tough, hard-nosed player. In big runs, he hits big shots.”

Walk-on Austin Ash even got some playing time in the first half. Unofficially, those were his first meaningful minutes of the Big Ten season.

Ash finished with one point. Connor McCaffery was held to four points, all on free throws. Joe Touissant had three points but five turnovers and was a team-worst minus-16. Bakari Evelyn got the most extra court time with Fredrick down and finished with nine points but committed four of Iowa's way-too-many 19 turnovers.

Joe Wieskamp was a non-factor for too long.

The sophomore splashed home his first shot attempt of the night, a right-baseline 3-pointer that gave Iowa a 4-3 lead. A promising sign. Then, for whatever reason, he went into a quiet funk.

Wieskamp didn’t score again until making one of three free throws with 12:05 left in the second half. He finally got going with some driving lay-ins, but it was too little, too late. He finished with 16 points.

"Even before C.J. went out, but especially when he went out, they were really focused on me," Wieskamp said. "All up into my space."

His lengthy disappearance was especially significant with Fredrick out. Iowa won one game when Fredrick was sidelined in January with a stress reaction — that was when Wieskamp scored 26 points in a home rout of now-No. 9-ranked Maryland. If Fredrick is down for a while, Iowa can ill-afford any off nights from their talented wing from Muscatine.

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.