Luka Garza dominated with 27 points in limited minutes as Iowa coasted to a 75-62 victory over Northwestern at a quiet, empty Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday night. C.J. Fredrick returned from a 2-game absence due to a stress reaction in his foot to add 11 points, 5 assists and 2 steals in a much-needed boost to the backcourt.
It's Iowa's first road win of the conference season, and only the sixth in all of Big Ten play thus far this season. And like most of Iowa's victories this season, it went straight through the paint and Garza's skilled hands.
Garza started the game by scoring Iowa's first 10 points of the contest in the first four minutes of the game, but he couldn't stake the Hawkeyes to much of a lead; Iowa was up 10-9, but spent most of the first half tied or trailing the "spunky" (read: objectively bad but getting breaks) Wildcats. Northwestern dominated the offensive glass early—at one point the rebounding margin was a preposterous 14-2 lead for the home team—but Iowa kept pace and took the lead for good on a Fredrick triple with about 5 minutes left in the first half.
Foul trouble limited Garza's involvement, as he picked up his third foul on an ahem-ahem-ahem-queeeestionable offensive call in the first minute of the second half. Garza was still stuck on 10 points at that point, and an extended stay on Iowa's bench apparently gave the Peacock ample opportunity to consider what sort of revenge he'd take on the unsuspecting hosts. He returned to the game con gusto, as Garzas are wont to do, and here's the damage he inflicted between the under-12 and under-8 TV timeouts:
BEFORE: IOWA 51, NORTHWESTERN 46
- Layup +1
- Drawn shooting foul (2-for-2)
- Defensive rebound
- Defensive rebound
- Blew a kiss to one lucky fan*
- Layup +1
AFTER: IOWA 65, NORTHWESTERN 50
Yes: Luka Garza went on a 14-4 run by himself, putting the game effectively out of reach. Northwestern had nobody who could stop him, and everybody on both benches knew it. If there were fans in the stands, they would have known it too.
Luka blew the kiss, we tell. pic.twitter.com/9X8sG3uAwU— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 15, 2020
*Some jNWU fan decided it was a good idea to talk noise to arguably the most unguardable player in the Big Ten, which tells you absolutely everything you need to know about the intersection of "good enough grades to get into Northwestern" and "common sense."
One ancillary benefit of Fredrick's return was lineup/rotational flexibility, and that was crucial in a game like today where Joe Toussaint just didn't have it. Iowa's true freshman point guard didn't play his way into turnovers, but he was 0-for-5 from the field with just one assist in 16 minutes of action, and he was thoroughly outplayed by Bakari Evelyn who contributed 8 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in his best game of the season.
And you know what? That's fine! True freshmen are going to look like true freshmen sometimes, especially on the road in the best conference in college basketball, and the good teams can limit the damage when that happens. With Fredrick back in the mix, there's a little bit of that depth and balance back. Now, if Evelyn had been off his game too, look out, but seven assists and five rebounds look a lot like a player making his own luck, y'know?
Not much else to say about a win like this. Iowa shot 10-for-22 from deep, and while that's ahead of its season pace, they were good shots that the offense should be generating, and that these players should be making. Yes, it's just Northwestern, and far greater tasks await, but in so many facets Iowa looked like a team that knew the things it needed to do to win, then went and accomplished those things. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?
Go. Iowa. Awesome.