Luka Garza likely saw the agony of loss for the last time as the Iowa Hawkeye.
Despite another show of brilliance from the senior, 2-seeded Iowa lost a fierce game to 7-seeded Oregon in Monday’s second round game, 95-80. It was the first game of the Ducks tournament after passing VCU without a competition due to COVID-19 issues.
Records will show Iowa lost Monday’s game, but it certainly wasn’t for a failure to show up and play by Garza. The 6-11, 265-pound senior player was a force in his last game, registering highs in points (36) and rebounds (nine) on 14 of 20 shots. He produced nearly half of the Hawkeyes’ scores. .
Despite his valiant attempts to push the Hawkeyes towards the Sweet 16, it was clear their lack of defense would doom them to an early exit from the tournament. So when Garza last left the court with about 36 seconds left, he wore his emotions on his sleeve for all college basketball to see.
With it, Garza ends his career as Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, a two-time unanimous All-America selection and only the seventh player to win. Sports News Player of the Year more than once (and the first since Michael Jordan in 1982-83). He could have left Iowa after the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament and would still have been considered among the greatest. But his commitment to the Hawkeyes prompted him to return once again in hopes of winning a national title.
Those hopes fell short on Monday, but that doesn’t take away from Garza’s career in Iowa, in which he averaged 18.0 points per game, 7.3 assists per game, a goal percentage on the field of 54.4 and a percentage of 36.2 to 3 points. He’s been the most dominant in his last two seasons, averaging 23.8 points per game, 9.3 rounds per game, nearly two blocks per game and a 54.4 field goal percentage. He led Iowa to a 22-8 record and helped the Hawkeyes tie their record for Big Ten wins in one season (14).
Garza shouldn’t feel any shame for the tears he shed on Monday: it was an all-time career that didn’t get the end it deserved.
This is life in March Madness.