Garza, Cook double-doubles lead Iowa back from 20-point deficit
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The University of Iowa athletic department released a new slogan ahead of the 2017-2018 academic year.
“Fight for Iowa” surrounds Hawkeye athletic events this year. In a highlight video played before every football game, former Hawkeye defensive lineman Mike Daniels encouraged fans to fight for “our state,” “our university,” and “our traditions.”
Why fight for Iowa? Because Iowa fights for itself.
The Hawkeyes haven’t played well, that’s no secret. They haven’t shot the ball that well, their defense has gone AWOL at times, and turnovers have plagued them once or twice.
Say what you will about the Hawkeyes, but never say they don’t fight.
It’d be easy for a team to go down by as many as 20 points in the first half and fold. Just accept the loss, and try to get a conference win another time.
Iowa doesn’t do easy. Iowa chose to fight, and the Hawkeyes fought their way to a 104-97 overtime victory at Illinois.
It surely wasn’t easy. Nothing went right for Iowa after a pair of quick buckets from Tyler Cook. Five minutes passed without an Iowa bucket.
Meanwhile, Illinois was shooting the lights out of the State Farm Center in the first half. The Illini led 54-41 at halftime, the largest output the Hawkeyes had allowed in a half all season.
If anyone ever questions your fandom just tell them you willingly watched the 2018 at Illinois and weren’t paid to do so
— Chris Hassel (@Hassel_Chris) January 12, 2018
The Hawkeyes showed their mental toughness and started the second half with energy and blitzed Illinois for a 10-0 run.
For the rest of the half, the two teams were neck-and-neck. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery made two key adjustments after intermission: he switched to a 1-3-1 zone, and limited the rotation to seven core players.
The 1-3-1 zone gave Iowa life and gave Illinois fits. Iowa has regularly switched between a man-to-man defense and a 2-3 zone defense, but neither has brought much success.
“They really carved up our zone,” McCaffery said of the 2-3. “In the second half, I thought our activity level was way better.”
McCaffery stuck primarily with the regular starters plus Maishe Dailey and Ryan Kriener in the second half. Kriener in particular gave Iowa a jolt.
Kriener finished with five points and four rebounds in 12 minutes, but also managed to control the ball and avoid turnovers, something he has struggled with recently. More importantly, he allowed the game’s real star, Luka Garza, to rest before crunch time.
Garza dominated the latter half of the game to record his third career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Garza scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and overtime.
“The critical thing was Kriener’s performance to allow him to be fresh at that juncture of the game,” McCaffery said. “When he came in he came in with energy and confidence.
Garza scored six straight points late in the second half, including a layup that gave the Hawkeyes the lead at 83-82 with three minutes left in regulation. The freshman proved to be a difference maker in Big Ten play for the first time.
The Hawkeyes looked to be on their way to a win, but Trent Frazier somehow got a running, off-balanced three to go as time expired to force overtime.
Tied at 90 at the end of regulation, Iowa outscored Illinois 14-7 in the overtime period.
Garza wasn’t the only one with a double-double. Tyler Cook registered his second of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Jordan Bohannon led all scorers with 29 points, sinking five of his 12 threes and draining all 10 of his free throw attempts. As a team, the Hawkeyes were 33-of-40 (83 percent) from the free throw line.
Foul trouble hurt the Illini down the stretch, as four players fouled out, including Leron Black in regulation. Black finished with 18 points while Frazier led the way with 27.
The Hawkeyes grinded their way to their first Big Ten win of the season, and made some history in the process. Thursday’s victory was jus the third time in program history the team has overcome a 20-point deficit to win, once coming at Illinois (23 vs. Gardner-Webb in 2012 and 22 at Illinois in 1987).
It wasn’t easy, and it took six games to do it, but Iowa got in the win column. For all the criticism directed at them, the Hawkeyes didn’t hang their heads. They fought.
“I was proud of the fight,” McCaffery said.
We all should be.
Iowa (10-9, 1-5) has one more road game left on its three-game swing, traveling next to Piscataway, New Jersey to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-7, 1-4) on Wednesday. Game time is 6:00pm CT on BTN.
Rutgers first plays Ohio State Sunday on BTN at 6:00pm CT.