By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball overcame a sluggish start to cruise to a 91-60 victory over Southern University on Sunday afternoon on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Jaguars led by as many as six (23-17) 12 minutes into the first half as Iowa made just five of its first 16 attempts to start the game. The Hawkeyes closed out the half on a flurry, going on a 23-8 run over the final eight minutes to take a 41-31 halftime lead.
Sophomore Maishe Daily hit two 3-pointers before assisting on a Nicholas Baer triple that gave Iowa a 26-25 lead. Freshman Luka Garza then took over, scoring nine of 11 Hawkeye points, including a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left that gave Iowa a 38-31 lead.
“I tried to come off the bench and give energy,” said Garza. “We switched the starting lineup up and that doesn’t change my mentality. I came out with energy, trying to give us a boost. We came out a little flat, we couldn’t get any separation. I tried to come out, get on the glass, give some energy and get us on a run. Our whole team did a good job of staying consistent and building on the lead.”
Iowa forced a Southern turnover with 3.6 second remaining in the half before dialing up a buzzer beater to take a 10-point halftime lead. Freshman Connor McCaffery inbounded the ball to Dailey, who flipped the ball to Brady Ellingson in the corner for a 3-pointer to send the Hawkeyes to a 41-31 advantage.
“That was a big play,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery of the buzzer-beater. “It gave us a little separation and I thought our effort level in the second half was really good.”
Iowa blew the game open in the second half, pushing its lead to 20 points 6 1/2 minutes in when Tyler Cook posterized a Jaguar defender for a one-handed flush. The Hawkeyes led by as many as 35 points.
The Hawkeyes shot 44.4 percent from the field, made 13 3-pointers, and went 22-of-28 from the free throw stripe. The 28 attempts were more than the last three games combined.
Freshman Luka Garza enjoyed his best half (and game) as a Hawkeye during the first half. The Washington D.C. native made 4-of-5 field goals and 5-of-6 free throws en route to a 14-point first half. He scored nine of 11 points during a stretch, including seven straight, and had eight rebounds in 10 minutes.
“This was clearly his best game,” said McCaffery. “He was a dominant force. As soon as I put him in, he was playing well. He ran the floor, was on the glass, and made very few mistakes. He was in the right place and settled everyone down.”
Garza finished with a career-high 23 points in 19 minutes, making 7-of-10 field goals, including one 3-pointer, and 8-of-10 free throws. He also grabbed a career-best 13 rebounds (six offensive) for his second career double-double.
“It was great for my confidence, especially free throws,” said Garza. “I have always been a good free throw shooter, so stepping up and hitting a couple boosts my confidence. I understand my ability and I know I can do it, I just have to keep up my energy and everything will fall into place.”
Freshman Connor McCaffery made his Hawkeye debut, playing 17 minutes after missing the first 10 games because of injury and illness. McCaffery finished with five points and four assists to one turnover.
His first field goal was a 3-pointer that made the score 85-53. It was Iowa’s 13th 3-pointer in the game — a season-high.
“He played the way I know he can play, the way he knows he can play,” said Fran McCaffery. “Physically he has a long ways away because doesn’t have his legs underneath him. The pace of the game helped him, if it was faster it would have been harder for him, but he moved the ball well and was effective.”
After committing 18 turnovers in each of its last three games, Iowa had a season-low seven turnovers against Southern. It is the second game this season the Hawkeyes have had fewer than 10 miscues (vs. Alabama State).
“We made that a focal point, you could tell,” said McCaffery. “If you look down and see seven turnovers, that is a number that hasn’t been there in a while, it has been in double digits. We have to continue that trend.”
- Iowa’s reserves out-scored its Jaguar counterparts, 52-27.
- The Hawkeyes finished with eight blocks, including three from freshman Jack Nunge.
- Iowa had 22 assists on its 28 field goals. Southern had only four assists on 21 field goals.
- Sophomore Cordell Pemsl did not play after suffering a leg contusion in the road loss at Iowa State. He’s day-to-day.
- Records: Iowa (5-6), Southern (2-9)
Iowa returns to action next Saturday, facing Drake at 1 p.m. (CT) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines as part of the Hy-Vee Classic.