By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Luka Garza was Luka Garza and the No. 5/6 University of Iowa men’s basketball team rolled to a 97-67 victory over North Carolina Central on Wednesday afternoon on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It was the Hawkeyes’ 10th straight win in a season opener dating back to the 2011-12 season.
Garza notched his 17th straight 20-point game, finishing with 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting in 24 minutes. He also grabbed 10 rebounds (seven offensive) to tally his 21st career double-double.
While the Preseason National Player of the Year was the headliner, the Hawkeyes got strong contributions from a pair of newcomers.
Redshirt freshman Patrick McCaffery did a little bit of everything, finishing with 16 points, three rebounds, one block and one steal in 21 minutes, while freshman Keegan Murray finished with 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
“They made a tremendous impact on the game with their energy level,” said head coach Fran McCaffery. “They both got to the offensive glass, both ran the floor in transition defensively, and were active. They played like veterans and that’s what I expected of both of them, they’re good players.”
Redshirt sophomore CJ Fredrick was the fourth Hawkeye in double figures with 10 points with three 3-point field goals and junior Joe Wieskamp finished with nine points and six rebounds.
NC Central jumped out to a 10-6 lead and the Eagles led 22-20 at the 8:49 mark. The Hawkeyes followed with a 20-2 and 24-4 run turning a two-point deficit into a 44-26 lead. Patrick McCaffery scored eight straight points during the stretch, Bohannon hit two 3-pointers and Garza scored the final eight during the stretch.
The Hawkeyes, who shot 53.6 percent in the first half, pushed their lead to 20 on a Fredrick 3-pointer with 14:15 left. Iowa led by as many as 33 following back-to-back 3-pointers from Keegan Murray with 7:59 to play.
“I try to be as versatile as I can,” said Keegan Murray. “Defending, getting after rebounds, and hitting shots when I am open. When I saw the first one go down, it built the confidence that I could see the ball going through the hoop and that led to me hitting the second one.”
Iowa shot 48.5 percent from the field and made 10 3-pointers in the game. The Hawkeyes were +16 on the glass (44-28) and forced 15 NCCU turnovers.
C.J. Keyser led the Eagles with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
The Hawkeyes started the day on a somber note by supporting teammate Jack Nunge by virtually attending the funeral of Nunge’s father, Mark.
“It was important for us to do that,” said Fran McCaffery. “We love Jack, we’re there for Jack.”
“We were trying to be there for him,” said Garza. “We wanted to show support for his family… his family is our family. It’s the Iowa basketball program.”
Garza displayed a new toy in his arsenal in the second half with a step back fadeaway jumper, a la Dirk Nowitzki.
“That’s a move I have worked on a lot, trying to add some moves in the post and trying to get comfortable making different moves,” said Garza. “Sometimes I try to switch it up and go for a fadeaway. It as nice to see that one through, especially in a game when I was in the moment.”
5 FOR 5
It was a nice debut for the Hawkeye newcomers as all five freshmen scored in their Iowa debuts.
- Iowa has won its last 10 season openers, dating back to the 2011-12 season.
- A Garza dunk with 16:43 left in the second half was his 20th point of the game and career point No. 1,579, passing Dean Oliver and Adam Haluska for 10th in Iowa all-time scoring. The All-American has tallied 20 points or more in 17 straight games, dating back to last season. The 17-game streak is the longest in Division I since Oklahoma’s Trae Young had an 18-game streak in 2017-18.
- Iowa has won 14 of its last 15 games inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, dating back to last season.
- Wieskamp made his first five free throws to extend his consecutive free throws made streak to 27, dating back to last season, before missing in the second half.
- Iowa got separation from NCCU by virtue of a 20-2 scoring run spanning 8:49 in the first half.
- Iowa improves to 2-0 all-time against North Carolina Central.
The Hawkeyes return to action Friday, hosting Southern at 4 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court.