The Hawkeyes advanced in the NCAA Tournament in large part because of Luka Garza. The Iowa forward came up with one of the best games of his career against Cincinnati.
Hawkeye headquarters adam rossow tells us why the pressure of march madness is nothing compared to the adversity he overcame before this season.
Luka Garza’s 20-point, seven rebound performance against Cincinnati is even more impressive when you remember how the sophomore began the season.
“It wasn’t until after the surgery that we felt good about it,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Going into the surgery it was touch-and-go.”
Garza had a large cyst removed from his abdomen in September — putting a potential breakout campaign on hold.
“Right before it happened, despite having it, I think it was the best shape I had been in and the best my game had felt in my career,” Garza said.
Garza rehabbed quickly after the procedure. He earned MVP honors in the Hawks’ 2k Classic championship in New York.
“He was really on his way,” McCaffery said. “Then he has the terrible sprained ankle, comes back plays really well and had a terrific season for us. Had a little slump there for a minute with his shooting, but I’m running plays for him to hit threes, so that’s what I think of him.”
That confidence in Garza is shared by the entire team. So is a lighthearted attitude toward the adversity from earlier this year according to Nicholas Baer.
“We kind of joke about it, like, ‘Luka, remember when you had a ten-pound cyst and you were like fighting that.’ That was almost like 6 or 7 months ago, so, you know, Luka has been phenomenal for us,” Baer said. “He was great for us yesterday and he is gonna play the same way tomorrow.”
A repeat of Friday’s heroics is going to be a challenge against Tennessee, but Garza says he’s ready for the task.
“The intensity is raised every step of the way,” Garza said. “I’m just gonna come out there and play as hard as I can. Whatever happens, happens, but I know whatever the outcome is that I left everything out there.”
Garza’s averaged more than 16 points per game over his last four contests. The Hawks will likely need more of the same from the big man to pull the upset against the Volunteers.