You don't always know when you're witnessing something historic. Sometimes history sneaks up on you. And sometimes history smashes you across the face with a 2x4. That was the case on Friday night, as #3 Iowa set in-state rival Iowa State ablaze and then kept adding more gasoline en route to a 105-77 victory.
There was history made on several levels: Iowa's 105 points was the most scored by either team in a game in the history of the rivalry (in fact, it was just the third time a team topped 100 points in this series; the first two times happened back in 1987, when Iowa State edged Iowa 102-100 in OT). The 28-point margin of victory for the Hawkeyes was the most lopsided in series history. Jordan Bohannon became the first Iowa player in over 40 years to play in four wins over Iowa State (thanks again for the memz, JBo!).
And then there's what Luka Garza did tonight. My God.
The 34 points Garza scored isn't the most by a player in the history of this series -- that's still Lafester Rhodes and the utterly bananas 54 points he scored for the Cyclones in 1987. But still: this is a Garza performance that people are going to remember for a long, long, long time. He scored 34 points... in 17 minutes. Two quick fouls left Garza planted to the bench for most of the first half and a third foul sent him back there early in the second half. But when he was on the court, Garza was spectacular. He was unstoppable. His final stat line is something that would be difficult to duplicate in a video game, even at the easiest setting:
34 points, 13/14 shooting (!), 6/7 3-point shooting (!!!), 3 rebounds, 1 assist
At one point in the second half Garza scored twenty-one straight points for Iowa. Iowa went from a 68-55 lead when he started to an 89-64 lead by the time he was finished. And he did it all in the span of about five minutes of game time. He killed ISU with layups, he killed them with put-backs, he killed them with jumpers... but mostly he killed them with three-pointers. At one point Garza made back-to-back-to-back-to-back threes, dropping four consecutive rainbow threes from behind the arc. It was one of the single most incredible offensive displays I've ever seen from an Iowa player. I've seen guys like Bohannon and Matt Gatens and Justin Johnson and Chris Kingsbury get on heaters before, but this display from Garza felt like something even beyond that. It was otherworldly.
He just couldn't wait another night to pass @bjarmstrong for 5th on the all-time @IowaHoops scoring list. @LukaG_55 dropped 25 in the second half of a CyHawk blowout, and here's every field goal from the perfect run: pic.twitter.com/srtVjzrwAR— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) December 12, 2020
Hell, Garza hit 'em with The Shrug not once...
HE HIT EM WITH THE SHRUG pic.twitter.com/TZDyHbEveL— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) December 12, 2020
LUKA SHRUGGED AGAIN pic.twitter.com/NqKFM6ciyL— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) December 12, 2020
Garza's efficiency tonight was off the charts... literally.
Luka Garza only played 17 minutes tonight vs Iowa State and scored 34 points. That is the most points scored by a D-I player who played less than 20 minutes in a game over the last 25 seasons.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 12, 2020
Honestly, the only things that kept Rhodes' Cy-Hawk scoring record secure were Garza's foul trouble (and Fran's inflexible "two fouls in the first half" rule) and the fact that Iowa State couldn't keep up with Iowa's nuclear reactor of an offense once it got rolling. In a closer game, Garza would have played more and based on how he was shooting the ball tonight... he sure as hell would have scored more. Probably a lot more.
But Garza wasn't the only hero of this game for Iowa -- he was just the most transcendent. If things had gone a little differently (i.e., if Garza hadn't gone utterly supernova in the second half), we would have spent the last few paragraphs singing the praises of Jack Nunge... because he was really fucking good in this game, too. He finished with 17 points (on a cool 7/9 from the floor, 1/2 from deep) and a game-high 10 rebounds. Nunge was particularly good in the first half (15 points, 8 boards). He got extended minutes because fouls kept Garza on the bench for all but seven minutes and he made extremely good use of that time on the court. He was Iowa's main post presence with Garza out and he filled in quite capably; he showed nice bounce in finishing an alley-oop and a lay-up off a sweet out-of-bounds play, cleaned up well around the rim, and made a few jump shots, too. This looked a lot like the Nunge that Fran and the Iowa players have raved about from his practice performances the past few years. When Nunge can put together performances like this, it gives Iowa's over-stuffed Swiss army knife of an offense one more sharp blade to cut teams open with.
The sheer ridiculous potency of Iowa's offense this year can be hard to wrap your brain around. Iowa scored 105 points tonight (a sizzling 1.46 points per possession)... with Bohannon, Fredrick, and Wieskamp -- Threegeneration-X! -- shooting just 2/10 from long range. Iowa ended the game making 38% of its threes (11/29), but that was boosted by Garza's eruption (and, of course, Austin Ash). No matter: Iowa made 67% of their 2s (26/39) and 83% of their free throws (20/24). This offense can go off in so many different ways and with so many different players. God help defenses trying to slow this runaway train.
And for the second-straight game, Iowa produced an excellent reaction to getting punched in the mouth by an opponent (figuratively speaking -- though Connor McCaffery did get hit with the Mandible Claw from an ISU player at one point). After jumping out to a fast start and an 11-2 lead, the game got unexpectedly tight and rapidly turned into a back-and-forth contest thanks to some sloppy defense from Iowa and some red-hot shooting by the Cyclones (as well as some unusually cold shooting for Iowa). Tyler Harris hit a three for ISU to put them up 32-29 with 7:41 to play in the first half. But just like we saw when North Carolina put together a run and took a lead early in the second half on Tuesday, going behind -- even briefly! -- transformed Iowa from mild-mannered Bruce Banner to a rampaging Hulk in the blink of an eye.
Iowa scored seven points (via Nunge layup, Fredrick three, and Fredrick jumper) to quickly restore a four-point lead. Iowa State cut the lead to two (38-36) shortly after that on a pair of Harris free throws, but then the NOS hit and Iowa pulled away. Iowa went on a 12-0 run, with four points each from Nunge, Wieskamp, and Connor McCaffery, to open up a 50-36 lead. They never looked back from there. The Cyclones never got closer than 11 in the second half and Iowa spent most of the half with a 20+ point edge.
Even the defense looked good for Iowa, at least at times. Outside of that early scoring flurry and a spurt late in the game, Iowa State's offense spent long stretches of Friday night's game looking toothless. The Cyclones coughed the ball up 17 times and Iowa committed just 12 fouls (and only 2-3 in the second half). Iowa went to zone looks almost exclusively in the second half, which seemed to befuddle Iowa State on offense. ISU still managed to score 1.07 points per possession, which isn't exactly something to celebrate on the ol' defensive end, but the scoring binges Iowa was able to put together to blow the game open were made possible by Iowa's defense actually stringing together multiple stops at times. That's good!
And, honestly, after a performance like the one we just witnessed, discussing some defensive slip-ups or the struggles of non-Garza players from long range, is just picking nits. Iowa didn't just beat Iowa State for the third season in a row (the first time they've done that since 1988-1990), they stuffed their in-state rival in a trash can, lit that trash can on fire, then kicked it down a hill into a pile of broken glass. This was a complete and utter ass-kicking, the likes of which we haven't seen in the Cy-Hawk rivalry (at least the men's hoops variety) in a long time. Watching Iowa perform like this against anyone would have been fun; watching them do it against Iowa State was pure ecstasy.
So, yeah, let's dig out our dancing shoes again:
GO HAWKEYE STATE AWESOME.