The chase to become Iowa’s all-time leading scorer got to Luka Garza only once during Sunday’s game against Penn State.
Garza looked at the scoreboard going into a media timeout in the second half and saw that he needed to make both of the free throws he was about to shoot to reach the record.
The first one was good. The second? An air ball.
“Obviously, I was a little nervous on that free throw,” Garza said, laughing.
Garza eventually got the points he needed, and the 11th-ranked Hawkeyes came away with the win. He finished with 23 points as Iowa rallied in the second half to beat the Nittany Lions 74-68.
Garza now has 2,126 points, breaking the record of 2,116 points set by Roy Marble from 1985-89. Garza scored 12 points in the first half to get within a point of Marble. After the free-throw mishap, he passed the mark with a layup off a pass from Jordan Bohannon at the 8:18 mark of the second half.
“Yeah, I’ve never air-balled a free throw in my life,” Garza said. “When the first one went in of the two of them, I was very surprised. Neither of them felt good. I was just thinking about (the record) too much. They called the timeout, I looked up at the scoreboard and knew where I was at. I had the whole timeout to think about it.”
From that point, though, Garza settled in. Garza, who came into the game as the nation’s leading scorer at 24.7 points per game, scored 10 consecutive points in Iowa’s 13-2 second-half run after the game was tied at 54.
“The whole first half, I was fine,” Garza said. “After (the free throw), I was able to calm down and play the rest of the game.”
Garza also had 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
“Every game, you become more and more impressed with how he goes about his business, and the example he sets for everybody in the locker room,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
It was the fourth consecutive win for Iowa (17-6, 11-5 Big Ten).
“I didn’t come here to win awards, to score points. That wasn’t my goal,” Garza said. “I came here to win games.”
“I don’t think (Garza) would have wanted to talk about the record if we had lost the game,” McCaffery said.
Penn State (7-12, 4-11) went six minutes without a point in the second half. The Nittany Lions shot 6 of 28 from the field in the half.
“I didn’t think we took bad shots (in the second half),” Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry said. “We just didn’t make them. We even got to the rim a couple of times for layups and didn’t make them.”
CJ Fredrick added 18 points for the Hawkeyes. Fredrick, who has missed four games since Jan. 21 because of a lower leg injury, had his first double-digit scoring game since he had 13 against Northwestern on Jan. 17.
“CJ was just really, really good tonight,” Garza said.
Izaiah Brockington and Myreon Jones each had 11 points to lead Penn State. Myles Dread had 10.
Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp came into the game leading the nation in 3-point shooting at 50.9% and was averaging 19.8 points over the last five games. But he went scoreless in the first half, missing all three of his shots. Wieskamp scored the Hawkeyes’ first nine points of the second half and finished with 11 — going 4 of 11 from the field and 1 of 5 on 3-pointers — and 11 rebounds. “As the game went on, he was tremendous,” Fredrick said.
The Hawkeyes kept pace with Big Ten leader Michigan, staying two games behind the third-ranked Wolverines. The teams play Thursday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The game was originally scheduled for March 4, but was moved as the Big Ten rearranged schedules last week.
“We were going to play Michigan anyway. What difference does it make when we play them?” McCaffery said. “Let’s get the games in. If they have to be moved around, move them around.”
It was the fourth consecutive loss, and fifth in the last six games, for the Nittany Lions. Penn State’s average margin of defeat in the last four games is 4.8 points.
“We’re good enough to be in every single game. We haven’t been able to finish them,” Ferry said.
Penn State: At Nebraska on Tuesday.
Iowa: At No. 3 Michigan on Thursday.