IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Luka Garza missed his first five shots in the first six minutes.
But the Iowa junior center knew it was still early, and he could find spots in and around North Florida’s zone defense.
Garza then scored 29 points as Iowa beat North Florida 83-68 in a Las Vegas Invitational preliminary game on Thursday night.
Two of Garza’s first shots were blocked by North Florida forward Wajid Aminu, who is four inches shorter than the 6-foot-11 Garza.
“I was a little hesitant at first,” said Garza, who made seven of his next eight shots, including six consecutive. “I didn’t do a great job of finishing. I settled down and did better through the course of the game.”
“He missed a couple early,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They were banging him pretty good, they were really physical. He just adjusts. He understands they play their zone in a certain way, and he’s going to be open in certain places.”
The Hawkeyes (3-1) led just 39-35 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 17-4 run.
“I thought we really battled defensively in the first half,” McCaffery said. “It was the consecutive stops, and taking (the lead) to 17, that really changed the complexion of the game.”
Garza finished 12 of 18 from the field, including 2 of 2 in 3-pointers. He also had 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and the eighth of his career. Garza came into the game averaging 21.3 points and 10 rebounds, with 59 points and 22 rebounds in the last two games.
“I think my teammates are doing a great job of putting me in great positions,” Garza said. “I’m trying to finish when I get the ball. I think I’ve been doing a pretty decent job, but I have a lot of things to work on.”
Joe Wieskamp had 14 points for Iowa. Jack Nunge had 11 points, and freshman Joe Toussaint added 10.
Ivan Gandia-Rosa led North Florida (4-2) with 18 points, including six 3-pointers. Carter Henricksen had 17 points with nine rebounds. Wajid Aminu had 13 points and blocked five shots, and J.T. Escobar added 12 points.
The Ospreys, who made 21 3-pointers in a 115-39 win over Trinity Baptist on Monday, made just 12 in this game.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes needed a strong defensive effort and got it by holding North Florida to 39.3% shooting. Starting with next week’s Las Vegas Invitational games against Texas Tech and either Creighton or San Diego State, they will play a seven-game stretch that includes three neutral-court games and three road games.
North Florida: The Ospreys, who had a four-game winning streak snapped, better get used to playing on the road. They play one road game and two neutral-court games for the rest of the month, then after a Dec. 2 home game against High Point, play seven consecutive road games.
The final 24 minutes of the game were played with two officials. Lamont Simpson injured his left leg and left the arena on crutches. Officials Rob Riley and Kelly Pfeifer finished the game.
Iowa hosts Cal Poly in a Las Vegas Invitational preliminary game on Sunday.
North Florida plays at Creighton in a Las Vegas Invitational preliminary game on Sunday.