IOWA CITY, Ia. — Luka Garza became the leading scorer in Iowa men’s basketball history Sunday, passing Roy Marble with a layup midway through the second half of a game against Penn State.
Jordan Bohannon had the assist, as he has so many times before, patiently waiting for Garza to slide toward the basket and lobbing a pass that Garza dropped over the front rim.
That gave the Hawkeyes’ all-American center 2,118 points in a superb four-year career that has another month to go.
It was inevitable that Garza would set the standard once he announced last summer that he was returning for a senior season at Iowa with the goal of winning a national championship. Garza leads the nation in scoring at 24.7 points per game.
The native of Washington, D.C., told the Register earlier this month that he never entertained thoughts of making Hawkeye history when he arrived four years ago.
“I just wanted to step in, to work as hard as I could to become the best player I could,” Garza said. “It speaks to the teammates I’ve had throughout the time I’ve had here. They have just made me look really good.”
Garza is the only player in Iowa men’s basketball history to score at least 400 points in all four seasons.
He has been consistently brilliant for the past two seasons, raising both his game and the play of his teammates. Iowa is ranked 14th with a 16-6 record, sitting fourth in the Big Ten Conference, which is the toughest in the nation.
As Garza’s individual achievement drew near, he tried to turn attention to what the Hawkeyes are trying to accomplish as a group. The team hasn’t reached a Final Four since 1980.
“I’m just trying to focus on our team. I didn’t come back to win awards. I’ve won awards. My main focus here is to win games,” Garza said after Iowa beat Wisconsin on Thursday, led by his 30 points. “There’s a lot of noise around this team. I just try to stay away from it, not let it bother me, and do what I do.”
Garza reached this moment through hard work, spending hours in gyms in America and Europe each summer adding new moves and extending the range on his jump shot. He said he tried to push aside any anticipation of his record-setting basket. “I don’t want to psych myself out,” he said.
“I’m just really thankful that coach (Fran) McCaffery found me and provided me an opportunity to go to the University of Iowa. I love this place. I’m thankful for every time I get to wear this jersey.”
That jersey number is 55. The only mystery remaining about Garza’s place in Hawkeye history is whether any other men’s basketball player will ever wear it, or if it will hang from the Carver-Hawkeye Arena rafters like Megan Gustafson’s No. 10. Two years ago, she became the all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball history.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.