IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Steve Pikiell thought his team did a good job on Iowa center Luka Garza.
Then the Rutgers coach looked at the box score.
Garza had 28 points and 13 rebounds as No. 19 Iowa held on in the closing seconds to beat No. 24 Rutgers 85-80 on Wednesday night.
“That tells you what kind of tier he’s on,” Pikiell said.
“I don’t know if he’s elevating his game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s just dominant every night. You look at him, and you’re like, ‘Well, I’m not surprised, 28 and 13.”
Garza, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, had his 11th double-double of the season. He came into the game averaging 22.9 points and 10.2 rebounds.
All of this, Garza said, is “fun.”
“You can control what you can control,” he said. “You can’t control the numbers or anything like that. But you can control your effort.”
“He’s relentless,” Pikiell said. “He’s a problem for a lot of people. This league is filled with a lot of good guys, and he’s right at the top of the list.”
“Obviously, he creates a lot of confidence,” McCaffery said. “You throw it in there, he’s going to get to the free-throw line, or he’s going to get a bucket. And defensively, he’s really in a good place.”
Connor McCaffery hit four free throws in the final 16 seconds, his only points of the night, to close out the win for the Hawkeyes (14-5, 5-3 Big Ten), who led by nine points three times in the second half before Rutgers (14-5, 5-3) rallied.
The Scarlet Knights scored seven points in a 22-second span to take a 77-76 lead, a stretch that included back-to-back turnovers by the Hawkeyes. But CJ Fredrick gave Iowa the lead back on a layup with 2:16 to go. Joe Wieskamp’s 3-pointer 37 seconds later put the Hawkeyes ahead 81-77.
“We certainly had the opportunity to hang our heads,” McCaffery said. “We did not do that. We kept fighting. We executed on offense to perfection, and then we got key stops.
“No one was quitting on each other,” Garza said.
Wieskamp had 18 points, Joe Toussaint scored 14 and Ryan Kriener had 11 for the Hawkeyes. Toussaint also had seven rebounds.
Rutgers came into the game leading the Big Ten in scoring defense at 58.7 points per game. Iowa’s total was the most the Scarlet Knights have surrendered this season.
“It’s understanding that you have to be able to play through that physicality without losing your composure,” McCaffery said. “I thought that’s what we did in order to get 85 points against this team, a very good defensive team, as impressive a team defensively as I’ve seen on film.”
Ron Harper Jr. had a career-high 29 points for Rutgers. His previous best was 27 against the Hawkeyes last season. Akwasi Yeboah had 17 points and Myles Johnson added 10.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights came in having won eight of their last nine games, but dropped into a four-way tie for third place.
Iowa: It was the fourth consecutive win for the Hawkeyes, who moved into a tie for third place in the league with Rutgers, Maryland and Wisconsin. It was also Iowa’s eighth consecutive home win. The Hawkeyes are in the midst of a three-game homestand.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights, ranked for the first time since 1979, should stay in the AP Top 25, especially with a win on Saturday against Nebraska.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes should move up. They don’t play until the next rankings come out.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights play host to Nebraska on Saturday.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes play their third consecutive home game, facing Wisconsin on Monday.
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