EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Luka Garza struck early, then struck again to put the game away.
Garza scored 27 points — all but one of them in two spurts —and Iowa beat Northwestern 75-62 on Tuesday night. C.J. Fredrick and Joe Wieskamp each added 11 as the Hawkeyes (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) won their second straight.
Garza, the Big Ten scoring leader, hit his first four shots to account for Iowa’s first 10 points — and all of his in the first half. Garza didn’t connect again until hitting a layup 8:54 into the second. The junior center then turned it on and scored the next 16 straight for Iowa to help the Hawkeyes break open a tight, often plodding game.
“It's the ultimate confidence I have in myself,” Garza said. “Every time I touch the ball, I have the ability to score or make the right play. Once I can get the ball deep, in deep post positioning, we got guys like Cordell (Pemsl) who are really unselfish and throw the ball to me down there. I feel like I can score on anybody.”
Northwestern contained Garza for a stretch in the first half. Then then the 6-foot-11 junior sat early in the second after getting slapped with his third foul. But during most of the 24 minutes he was in the game, Garza was a threat, connecting from down low as well as from beyond the arc.
Garza, who entered averaging 22 points, finished 10 for 14 from the floor, hit two of three 3-pointers and helped buoy Iowa’s 47% shooting for the game. He made five of six free throws to round out his scoring line.
After pulling Garza early in the second half, Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey put his big man back on the court 8:15 into the period.
After finally connecting again, Garza scored 16 straight points to open Iowa’s lead to 69-51. He capped the run with a jumper with 5:01 left.
“He was able to come out of the game, and obviously he's fresh because he was out for so long, that helps because he got up and down the floor pretty good,” McCaffrey said. “We got the ball to him in transition a few times.
“And we made a concerted effort to get it to him, and the more we got it to him, the better he was.”
Miller Kopp scored 15, and Pete Nance scored 11 and pulled down 10 rebounds for the cold-shootings Wildcats (6-10, 1-5), who connected at just 36% from the floor and have lost six of seven.
Northwestern played its fourth game in 10 days without two injured regulars. Coach Chris Collins said Garza delivered the knockout punch to his tired team.
“I thought in the second half we were gassed,” Collins said. “We were hanging around… but we never could really find the kind of energy and the fight that’s needed to beat a team like Iowa.
“He’s (Garza) is such a relentless player. Once you get tired, that’s when he really kicks in.”
Iowa led 41-35 following a mostly back-and-forth and close first half. The Hawkeyes' seven-point lead with 1:53 left was the biggest by either team in the opening 20 minutes.
Iowa shot 54% from the floor and was 8 of 15 on 3-point attempts in first half. Northwestern went through cold stretches and shot just 36%. Kopp, who led with 14 points after 20 minutes, was the notable exception going 5 of 11 from the floor, including two 3’s.
Garza was 4-for-4 from the floor, including two 3s, in the opening 3:50 in to give Iowa a 10-9 lead. He missed his next three shots and was quiet for the rest of the period has he played 14 minutes in the half.
The pace didn’t pick up early in the second half. Neither team scored until Northwestern's Robbie Beran hit a 3-point jumper 3:15 in. Iowa was especially cold, hitting just 4 of its first 14 shots in the period while it tried to nurse a lead.
But Garza returned, on schedule, and put the game away.
“We kind of wanted to get to the 12-minute (left) mark,” McCaffrey said
Garza gave his teammates credit for building and maintaining a narrow lead until he
“We've got a lot of scorers, and I have confidence in our guys” Garza said. “You got guys like C.J. (Fredrick) and Joe (Wieskamp) and Connor (McCaffrey) and BK (Bakari Evelyn) who was huge in the first half for us. When you've got guys like that, I've got ultimate confidence that my teammates are going to help me out. Especially when I get in foul trouble.”
Collins called Garza “arguably the best player in the conference at this point.”
Collins emphasized team needs some time to relax, including in ice tubs, before its next game on Saturday at Illinois. “I thought we hit the wall a little bit emotionally and physically,” he said.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes needed this win in their only regular-season game against Northwestern to hold their ground in the middle of the Big Ten standings.
Northwestern: The Wildcats fell short —and into last place in the Big Ten — following a 62-57 win over Nebraska on Saturday that ended a five-game slide.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes host Michigan on Friday.
Northwestern: The Wildcats will play at Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25