INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa got 24 points from Luka Garza and avoided the early NCAA Tournament exit that befell other high seeds with an 86-74 victory over Grand Canyon in the West Region on Saturday night.
Ohio State, Purdue and Tennessee were all bounced from the tournament on a wild opening day of upsets, but the second-seeded Hawkeyes (22-8) used a strong shooting display to advance.
Iowa shot the Antelopes and their boisterous fans back to the desert, hitting 54% from the floor while going 10 of 22 from behind the arc.
Joe Wieskamp added 16 points to help lead the Hawkeyes into the next round Monday against Oregon, which advanced after Virginia Commonwealth became the first team to bow out of the bracket due to a positive COVID-19 test.
GCU chartered two planes from Phoenix for the Havocs, the school’s purple-clad student section, and they spent the game dancing and cheering in one end of Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum – socially distanced, of course.
Grand Canyon (17-7) gave the Havocs reason to remain on their feet early by keeping the Hawkeyes within reach before an Iowa surge before halftime allowed the Hawkeyes to pull away.
Asbjorn Midtgaard had 18 points and Jovan Blacksher Jr. 15 for GCU.
The Lopes took a huge leap forward in their first season under Bryce Drew, the former Valparaiso and Vanderbilt coach who hit one of the most famous shots in NCAA Tournament history.
Grand Canyon won the WAC regular-season title and closed out the conference tournament with a blowout win over New Mexico State to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years as a Division I program.
The Lopes arrived in Indy possibly needing a big shot like Drew hit against Ole Miss for Valpo in 1998 if they were going to have a chance against Iowa and Garza.
The multi-talented 6-foot-11 senior was perhaps even more dominating than he was a year ago when he averaged 23.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game to earn first-team Associated Press honors for the second straight year.
He’s surrounded by shooters, so teams have to choose which option hurts less.
Garza got off to a great start, hitting a pair of 3-pointers while scoring eight early points. So the Lopes started collapsing in on him and hit a few of their own shots, lingering within reach like so many lower seeds have done so far this March.
They just couldn’t stop the Hawkeyes.
Iowa made six 3s and hit 16 of 29 shots to stretch the lead to 42-31 at halftime.
The Hawkeyes kept dead-eyeing to start the second half, hitting 7 of their first 11 shots to stretch the lead to 17.
Iowa did what it was supposed to as a No. 2 seed with an impressive shooting performance.
Grand Canyon had its first taste of the NCAA Tournament and the Havocs had a road party. No win, but a great experience.