Garza leads high-scoring Iowa into Assembly Hall

Plenty was missing from the Hoosiers’ effort versus Purdue.

But when Indiana coach Archie Miller thought about the squad he put on the floor Saturday, playing in front of a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, there was one aspect that was sorely missing.

One trait that would have paired so nicely with the roars of a fired-up fanbase.

“That charged-up environment needs as charged-up team ready to stop people and get out and go,” Miller said Monday on his radio show. “You can’t really base everything off of your offense, but your offense gets better when your defense is good.”

As the Hoosiers (15-8, 5-7 Big Ten) prepare for their next home opportunity versus No. 21 Iowa — their last before a four-out-of-five stretch on the road — defense finds itself at the forefront of Miller’s mind.

During a four-game skid, IU has allowed opponents to shoot better than 46 percent on three occasions. The lone exception was at No. 13 Penn State, where the Nittany Lions hit 37.5 percent but feasted on IU’s second-half turnovers.

IU’s posts have been outplayed. IU’s guards have been blown by. And the Hawkeyes (17-7, 8-5) have the pieces to make life miserable if the Hoosiers don’t get things together.

There is no bigger piece than 6-foot-11 junior Luka Garza, who could find no better hype man than IU’s third-year coach in the lead-up to this game.

“They’ve always played a great tempo, they always play a great pace, and they have shooting, but this year they have the national player of the year,” Miller said. “I really believe the Big Ten has the national player of the year in Luka Garza.”

That may seem like quite the statement, but numbers back up Miller’s argument. Garza not only averages 23.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest, but he has demonstrated remarkable consistency.

Only six times this season has Garza failed to reach 20 points in a contest. Only one of those games (16 points at Nebraska) has come during the conference season.

“Every team that’s played him has gotten drilled. He’s gotten everybody,” Miller said. “There hasn’t been anybody that’s had this recipe, whether you can trap him, or dig him, or put five guys in the paint on him — nobody has had that recipe to really get it.

“I don’t know if we’ll have that recipe, but I guess my hope is he has to work a little bit on the other end, as well, in their man or their zone, keep us off the glass, running back, keeping guys out of the post. We have a formidable front line that’s going to have to do some damage if we are going to have success against their defense.”

In that, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Joey Brunk, and Co. will have quite the challenge draining Garza’s motor. Because he seems to be outfitted with a larger-than-usual tank.

“He is constantly on the move, creating action, using screens, ball-screenin’, pickin’-and-poppin’, floatin’ to the 3,” Miller said. “He catches the ball 12 feet off the lane as much as he does in the low post and he just shoots right over top of you. He’s like an old-school post guy that has the in-between, the middle, and the long range.

“But if you ask me what makes him so good, I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy with that type of motor over the course of the game.”

With Garza leading the way, Iowa is averaging 79.1 points per contest, which ranks 20th in the country and tops in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are also fifth in the country in assists per game (17.8) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.49).

Garza’s all-around game is complemented by 6-6 sophomore Joe Wieskamp (15.4 ppg), who just dropped 30 points on Nebraska in Iowa City.

Across the board, the Hawkeyes’ pace and tempo will pose challenges for the Hoosiers. But it’s a challenge Miller was going to lay at their feet regardless of the opponent. IU hasn’t consistently demonstrated the offensive firepower to outgun teams like the one about to visit Assembly Hall.

The defense hasn’t been able to pick up the slack, either. Against Purdue, the Hoosiers had just two steals. That contributed to an 11-1 deficit in fastbreak points.

“I think if we just recreate, reestablish our identity on that side of the ball, our offense actually gets better a little faster, especially at home as you get some stops and some transition,” Miller said. “If you are not able to get stops and some transition, I don’t care who you are, you better really, really be a good execution or shooting team.”

A defense-first approach has benefited the Hoosiers before, as Miller thought back to their wins over ranked opponents at home, especially Michigan State. Iowa, he said, could be the best team IU faces in Assembly Hall this season.

So it’s time to get back to winning on the defensive end.

“As much as you what to dwell on ‘We are not playing well,’ better find a way to play well,” Miller said, “because there’s another one coming in here on Thursday and we have to get our stuff together.”

5 comments

  1. ??? WhaaaaaT? Now it’s the FAN’S fault for the lack of enthusiasm? Give me a break.

    Actually, I think the referees will give me a break and call at least 2 fouls on this Garza character who I’ve so enjoyed watching in Iowa’s OTHER games this year. He tends to foul a lot, and I’m guessing (nay, predicting) that anytime he comes CLOSE to our # 4 that’s a foul.

    He’ll not play more than 15 minutes of this upcoming game, and we’ll win by 15.

    Beat Iowa. They have no right to win in Assembly Hall.

    1. ??? WhaaaaaT? Now it’s the FAN’S fault for the lack of enthusiasm? Give me a break.

      Maybe I’m missing it, but where did you find that implication, Rock?

  2. Now, Rock…If you’re gonna steal/hijack that prediction….then that’s not team ball. Isn’t that our Hoosier basketball team’s issue? Teaching moment…teaching moment.

  3. I sort of think the strategy is wrong for this game…with all due respect to Archie.

    I sort of give Garza his …as in some of his opportunities…..I give him the outside shot and do my best to keep him off the glass. Sometimes the least contested shot for a big is his hardest to drill.
    In my recollection of our historical battles with Iowa, it’s always one of the Iowa guards going off for a career night against us…It’s always some bomb thrower going off like Matt Roth from 5 feet beyond a 3-pt line….Dagger after dagger…after dagger. Hoosier momentum killers….halftime daggers…late-in-game daggers.

    I think this game hinges more on the defense played by our guards…The more we disrupt their backcourt, the more we’ll disrupt Garza. And we must not give one of their overlooked guards an opportunity to catch fire from deep. We have been giving teams way too many open looks from the perimeter. Our guards have to play better overall defense…We have four guards of rather equal skill levels. And none of our guards are of small stature. I honestly don’t understand why we don’t have more success at defending the perimeter. Maybe one of the X’s and O’s experts here can explain it to me…? Geoff? And there’s my fear with concentrating too heavily on Garza…We’ll get caught over-helping and open bombs will fly for Iowa.

    We’re lucky that Bohannon is out for the season with hip surgery. Bohannon has the ‘dagger mentality.’ But that circumstance of luck for us is also a bit of my fear…I hope we don’t take the Iowa backcourt for granted. I’m not that familiar with their roster. I only know they are known to find shooters…and ‘deliverers of daggers.’ Maybe not the fastest afoot….but beware of marksmen.

    It’s bad enough that we struggle from the perimeter in many games….But basketball is an exchange rate. Find other ways to win by nullifying one aspect of an exchange rate. What we ‘may’ struggle at (3-point shooting) is what we ‘must’ put extra effort in denying the opposition. When our missed triple…is followed up by giving up an easy triple converted by the opposition on their ensuing possession, it’s a – 6 point exchange rate (minus six). It’s a killer. And if it becomes a multiplier exchange rate, then it’s a bigger killer. Death by exchange rate….-6…-6…-6….-6….-6.

  4. You are right, I mis-read it. The sentence “one that would have been so nice to go along with the fan’s roars” I took to be an Archie quote.

    Let’s hope that’s the only thing wrong with my post.

    Beat Iowa, no matter WHAT strategy is used!!!

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