Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s Pete Nance outplayed by Iowa center Luka Garza


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Pete Nance goes up for a shot. The sophomore struggled against Iowa’s Luka Garza on Tuesday night.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

When he committed to Northwestern in 2017, Pete Nance was known as a forward who could do everything. As the highest-rated recruit in program history, Nance had unusually high expectations early on as a player who could score in the post, shoot threes and make highlight-reel passes.

And now in the middle of his sophomore season, a big man took the floor at Welsh-Ryan Arena and showcased that complete skillset. But it wasn’t Nance.

Iowa center Luka Garza scored 27 points in Iowa’s (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) 75-62 win over the Wildcats (6-10, 1-5). After NU’s coaches spent the last two seasons discussing Nance’s ability to become a walking mismatch, Nance saw what that type of player looks like in action.

“I’d love to be as effective as (Garza),” Nance said. “Every time we play one of the great players in this league, I look and see where they’re effective and try to see if I can start to do some of those things to help my game.”

Nance finished with 11 points against the Hawkeyes, but most of his impact came in the last three minutes when the game was out of reach. The Ohio native had 5 points at the end to boost his final total, but he was ineffective for most of the game.

The Hawkeyes outscored the Cats 34-19 run for 14 minutes in the middle of the second half, and Nance was held scoreless on just two shots during that stretch. He continued a five-game stretch of poor shooting, and he’s averaged just 6 points on 32 percent shooting over NU’s last six games.

Nance has played up to his potential multiple times this season, including in two 14-point games in December against Purdue and Michigan State. But in January, the sophomore forward has taken a step back.

“We’ve talked to Pete about being a good 3-point shooter than can make them, but we’ve really worked with him about attacking the basket and getting on the glass,” coach Chris Collins said. “He’s on the right track towards being a better player, but he’s still a young player and he’s growing.”

The hope is that Nance can eventually grow into a scorer as dangerous as Garza, the leading scorer in the Big Ten. Garza averages 22 points per game on 54.7 percent shooting, and the junior center scored 16 straight points in the second half Tuesday.

Collins said Garza’s versatility makes Iowa difficult to guard. When the Cats defended Garza one-on-one to start the game, he scored the Hawkeyes’ first 10 points. When NU sent more pressure at Garza in response, the Hawkeyes got 22 open 3-point shots and made ten of them over the remainder of the game.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Nance didn’t react to ball pressure as well as Garza did. The Hawkeyes ran a zone defense that packed the paint when Nance had the ball, and McCaffery said that defense gave Iowa the advantage against a talented big man in Nance.

“He’s a guy that anybody who comes in here is going to pay attention to him,” McCaffery said. “He’s a great player, and (Collins) goes to him. We just tried to stay close to him as close we could and neutralize him as best we could.”

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