Penn State at No. 11 Iowa Preview: Can the Lions Slow Down Luka Garza?

By Brad Peterson on February 20, 2021 at 1:19 pm
Iowa Hawkeyes Center Luka Garza
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
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Iowa Hawkeyes
16-6 (10-6 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
5 p.m. EST - Sunday, Feb 21
Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Iowa City, IA
Watch Info: FS1 I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 3
Vegas Line: Off

Penn State (7-11, 4-10, #40 NET) kicks off a two-game road trip by heading to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes Sunday. The Nittany Lions, losers of three straight, played well in the 92-82 Thursday night loss to #4 ranked Ohio State. Both teams shot the ball well, as you would expect with a combined 174 points. Following the script of many games, PSU led 59-51 early in the second half before a 15-0 Buckeye run turned the game around. It was the Lions’ best offensive performance in over a month, something they will need to replicate Sunday to have any chance against the Hawkeyes. Myreon Jones led PSU with 18 points. Izaiah Brockington and Seth Lundy added 12 apiece, and Jamari Wheeler chipped in with 11.

Iowa (16-6, 10-5, #5 NET) is coming off a dominating 77-62 win at Wisconsin Thursday, the Hawkeyes’ third straight victory. As usual, Iowa was led by the duo of Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp. Garza had 30 points on 11-19 shooting and Wieskamp added 17, the only two Hawkeyes in double figures. Iowa shot 50% from the floor and an astounding 63% (12-19) from behind the arc. While not known for their defense, Iowa held the Badgers to just 30% from the floor.

Iowa holds a 31-18 edge all-time in the series with Penn State, but PSU has won five of the last nine. Last year the two teams split, with each winning home games. Penn State won their “home” game at the Palestra in one of the best college basketball games I’ve ever seen in person. The venue, the crowd, and the high level of play all made for an incredibly entertaining game, with the Nittany Lions prevailing 89-86. Izaiah Brockington led PSU with 23 points off the bench in the game. Lamar Stevens (16), Curtis Jones (16) Myles Dread (14) all hit double figures in the win. Garza and Wieskamp led Iowa with 34 and 23 respectively. On Feb. 29 Iowa won the rematch at Carver-Hawkeye Arena 77-68 behind Garza and Wieskamp (sound familiar?), who scored 25 and 13. Stevens (20) and Lundy (19) led the blue and white in the loss.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Projected Starters
Penn State   Iowa
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Sr. 1 Jordan Bohannon - 6'1" - Sr.
Izaiah Brockington - 6'4" - Jr. 2 CJ Fredrick - 6'3" - So.
Myreon Jones - 6'3" - Jr. 3 Connor McCaffery - 6'5" - Jr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Jr. 4 Joe Wieskamp - 6'6" - Jr.
John Harrar - 6'9" - Sr. 5 Luka Garza - 6'11" - Sr.

SCOUTING REPORT

There isn’t enough space here to list all the accolades and accomplishments of Luka Garza. The 6’11” 260-pound big man was a unanimous first-team All-American last year and is the leading candidate for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s top player. Garza has been putting up insane numbers and can do it all. He is only the second Iowa player to eclipse 2,000 career points, and the fastest to 2,000 in the B1G in 25 years. He needs 14 points to break Roy Marble’s Iowa career scoring mark of 2,116, so look for that to happen late in the first half or early in the second half Sunday. This season, Garza leads the nation in scoring at 24.7 PPG while shooting 56% from the field. If you think all his work is done inside the paint, you would be mistaken as he shoots 45% from 3. He has great hands, even better footwork and nobody will outwork him. He is relentless. Watching him and John Harrar battle inside should be fun as both work incredibly hard.

Playing Robin to Garza’s Batman is Joe Wieskamp. The junior guard has started every game in his Iowa career. He is 10th in the league in scoring at 15.5 PPG and leads the conference in shooting from behind the arc at an amazing 51%. He and Jordan Bohannon each average 2.5 made 3s per game. Wieskamp has been hot, averaging just under 20 PPG the last five games.

Garza and Wieskamp are the only Hawkeyes averaging in double figures, but there are plenty of other scoring options. Iowa leads the nation in scoring at 87 PPG and as a team they shoot 40% from deep. Jordan Bohannon holds the school record for 3s made and is a 1,000-point scorer. He is only the sixth player in program history to amass over 1,000 points and 500 assists. CJ Fredrick, just back from a leg injury, freshman Keegan Murray, Joe Toussaint, and Jack Nunge are all capable of hitting double figures in a game. While the Hawkeyes electric offense plays at a fast pace, they don’t turn the ball over. Averaging only 9.4 TOs per game, they are on pace to break the program record for fewest turnovers per game. The Hawkeyes weakness is defense. They give up 73 PPG, 13th in the league (PSU is 14th at 73.8). Their games often resemble summer pick-up games at the Y with lots of scoring but not much defense being played, although they have held their last three opponents, Rutgers, Michigan State and Wisconsin to 66, 58 and 62, respectively.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Attack the rim. Iowa has been playing more zone to try to limit dribble penetration as their guards, outside of Toussaint, aren’t the most athletic. If Penn State can make them backpedal, they should be able to attack the rim, and in doing so, make Garza work harder on the defensive and with any luck, maybe even get him in foul trouble.
  • John Harrar. We saw what happened with Harrar getting in foul trouble last game. It will be much worse this game if he isn’t the floor to do battle with Garza. Penn State needs Big John on the floor and playing at his best to have any shot at pulling the upset.
  • Match the pace. This is a game where both teams want to get up and down the floor. Penn State has played better at a faster pace, but matching Iowa’s offensive efficiency will be a challenge. If PSU can continue shooting like they did in the Ohio State loss, they will have a chance.

PREDICTION

Penn State has only won two games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in 2017 and 2001. Iowa is 11-2 at home this year while the Nittany Lions are just 1-7 on the road. All the numbers add up to this game being uncompetitive, but I have a feeling Penn State will hang with the Hawkeyes. Maybe someone can open some doors to the arena to allow some of the cold, windy Iowa weather to cool off the hot-shooting Hawkeyes! Unfortunately, much like many games this year, it will be Penn State who goes cold, and a second half scoring drought will doom the Lions chances as Iowa pulls away for the win.

Prediction: Iowa 95 - Penn State 81

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