IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa center Luka Garza went scoreless for the first 12 minutes of Wednesday’s game against Rutgers.
It’s why Garza appreciates teammate Joe Wieskamp.
Wieskamp had a season-high 26 points and Garza had 22 as the No. 15 Hawkeyes defeated the No. 25 Scarlet Knights 79-66.
The Hawkeyes (14-6, 8-5 Big Ten), who fell out of the top 10 of the Associated Press poll this week for the first time this season, were coming off a stretch of four losses in the last five games.
They responded by getting big shots from their two top scorers.
“It was huge,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It’s what you hoped would happen. Those guys have been playing pretty good. Even though we were losing games, those guys were putting up big numbers.”
“Obviously we’ve been going through a rough patch, losing some games we felt we played good enough to win,” Wieskamp said. “At the end of the day, it’s a long season. You can only control the team in front of you.”
Garza, the nation’s leading scorer at 25.5 points per game, missed his first five shots. He had just eight points in the first half on 2 of 10 shooting.
But the Hawkeyes built a 34-25 halftime lead behind Wieskamp, who had 16 points in the half. Wieskamp, who scored 12 of the Iowa’s first 15 points, was 6 of 9 from the field in the half, making all three of his 3-point attempts.
“It takes a lot of pressure off me when he’s playing like that,” Garza said. “He’s been playing like that all season, and it’s really been helping me a lot. He’s consistent, he’s locked in, and he’s doing his thing. In the first half, when I was missing some shots I normally make, he really picked us up.”
“Wieskamp made some tough ones,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said.
Wieskamp has been a strong starter in games this season, but he’s struggled at times in the second half. He had just three of his 18 points in the second half of Sunday’s 67-65 loss at Indiana.
“I wanted to come out here and play a complete game,” Wieskamp said. “Play a complete 40 minutes, 35 minutes, however long I was out there. I kept staying with it. Guys were up in my space, fouling me all game. I thought I did a good job of fighting through that.”
Garza also had 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. Wieskamp had 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
Jordan Bohannon had 12 points for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa had 20 assists on 26 field goals.
“I thought we did run some good offense,” McCaffery said. “What we did was move it side to side, in and out, and got the ball to the right people.”
Geo Baker led Rutgers (11-7, 7-7) with 11 points, and Jacob Young added 10.
Garza passed the 500-point mark for the second consecutive season. He is the 11th Hawkeye to have two seasons of 500 points or more, and he’s the only player in the program’s history with four seasons of 400 or more points.
Iowa guard CJ Fredrick returned to the starting lineup after missing two of the last three games with a lower leg injury. Fredrick played 17 minutes and didn’t score, missing all three shots he took, but he had three assists and two rebounds. “He’s just a guy who understands how to play,” McCaffery said. Fredrick has started all 17 games he has played in this season, but McCaffery said earlier in the week Fredrick would be “day-to-day” for the rest of the season with the injury. “The scoring stuff will come,” Fredrick said. “I’m not worried about that.”
SHUTTING DOWN HARPER
Iowa held Rutgers guard Ron Harper Jr., who leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring at 16.8 points per game, to just nine points on 4 of 9 shooting. Harper had averaged 21 points in three previous games against the Hawkeyes. “Life isn’t easy in this league,” Pikiell said. “Ron is learning to live as the top guy on the scouting report.”
It was a timely victory for the Hawkeyes as they head into a stretch with games at Michigan State and Wisconsin. It was Iowa’s fifth win over a ranked team this season, the most of any team in the nation. Rutgers, which came into the game a half-game behind Iowa in the Big Ten standings, had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Rutgers: At home against Northwestern on Saturday.
Iowa: At Michigan State on Saturday.