IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - It wasn’t an overstatement, Fran McCaffery said.
Asked about junior center Luka Garza, McCaffery, Iowa’s basketball coach said, “He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around. That’s no exaggeration. He never takes a possession off at either end.”
Garza showed that work ethic on Friday night, opening the season with a double-double and Iowa pulled away in the second half for an 87-60 win over SIU-Edwardsville.
Garza, Iowa’s leading returning scorer from a team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, had 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Hawkeyes won their season opener.
It was the sixth double-double of Garza’s career.
“I think we just really followed the game plan,” said Garza, who had 14 points and seven rebounds in the first half. “We really wanted to get the ball inside. I was just able to be put into great positions by my teammates who tried to get me the ball. And when they put me into those positions, I’m going to try to find a way to score.”
Garza took over inside where forward Tyler Cook, Iowa’s leading scorer last season before leaving for a professional career, left off.
“I just worked a lot over the summer, tried to get stronger,” Garza said. “Now that I moved into TC’s position at the ‘5’, I’m more of a true center, for sure.”
Joe Wieskamp had 16 points for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa struggled early, with SIUE getting to within 26-22 late in the first half. But the Hawkeyes went on a 12-4 run, started by a 3-pointer from senior guard Jordan Bohannon, to close the half then opened the second half with a 17-8 run over the first six minutes.
Kenyon Duling and Cam Williams each had 10 points for SIUE (1-1).
Iowa went with a deep rotation - 10 players were used in the first half - and that rotation figures to grow as forward Cordell Pemsl returns from his suspension from his September arrest for drunken driving. McCaffery has never shied away from using a lot of players and will do so again, at least early in the season.
Iowa has won nine consecutive season openers. The Hawkeyes have also won 60 of its last 64 home games against nonconference opponents and are 16-0 against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Bohannon’s consecutive start streak ended at 96. Bohannon, coming off hip surgery in late May, entered the game at the 14:03 mark of the first half. Bohannon played 19 minutes, with nine points and four assists.
“He had a really good week, I thought, health-wise and practice-wise,” McCaffery said. “He was more like himself. He was aggressive. He made shots.”
“I felt good out there,” said Bohannon, who hit his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, with 3:55 left. “It helps when you hit your first shot. It boosted confidence. Nothing was really bothering me tonight.”
Iowa gets its first conference-challenge game of the season when the Hawkeyes host DePaul in the Gavitt Games (Big Ten vs. Big East) on Monday.
SIUE plays at home against Valparaiso on Tuesday.
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