Luka Garza will look for his second double-double in as many games when No. 5 Iowa hosts Southern on Friday afternoon.
Garza, the reigning Big Ten Conference player of the year, scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Iowa (1-0) cruised to a 97-67 win over North Carolina Central in its season opener Wednesday. It marked the 17th game in a row in which Garza scored at least 20 points.
“Whenever it leaves his hand, you’re surprised when it doesn’t go in,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He just has an uncanny knack and touch around the basket, and it also extends out on the floor, which makes him a handful to guard. We’re just thrilled that he keeps working and he’s such an unselfish guy.”
The Hawkeyes have high hopes after returning all five starters from a 20-win team a season ago. But McCaffery wants to see a better start from his players against Southern, particularly after they trailed for the first six minutes in their season opener.
A player with a familiar name could help with that effort.
Patrick McCaffery, a redshirt freshman forward for Iowa and the son of the head coach, scored 16 points off the bench in his first game. He shot 5 of 10 from the field, including 1 of 4 from beyond the 3-point arc, and he sank 5 of 8 free throws.
“I felt a lot more comfortable this time around than I did last year,” he said.
Southern (0-1) also faced North Carolina Central in its season opener as part of the multi-team event. However, the Jaguars will be on shorter rest because they met the Eagles on Thursday afternoon, one day after Iowa played against them.
While Iowa won by 30 against North Carolina Central, Southern lost 85-78 in overtime to the same opponent.
Guard Ahsante Shivers led the Jaguars with 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Fellow guard Brendon Brooks came off the bench to score 17 points in 25 minutes.
Another backcourt threat, guard Jayden Saddler, finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, and he led the team in rebounds (eight) and assists (seven). Forward Damiree Burns added 14 points.
Southern is coached by Sean Woods, who is entering his third season in charge of the program. Woods was a standout player for Kentucky in the early 1990s, and his No. 11 jersey hangs in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
Woods said his team could benefit from playing top-10 teams early in the season.
“Our nonconference schedule will definitely be a challenging one for us, as we face some great teams and competition,” he said to the school’s website when the schedule was announced earlier this month. “Ultimately that will help prepare us down the road for a tough Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule.”
–Field Level Media