By Pat Harty
The Iowa men’s basketball team saw its depth and its record both improve on Tuesday at the expense of Northwestern.
It was announced shortly before Tuesday’s game at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill., that redshirt freshman guard C.J. Fredrick would start after having missed the last two-and-a-half games due to a stress reaction in his left foot, and he made an immediate impact.
The Cincinnati, Ohio native scored 11 points, including nine in the first half, and also had five assists during Iowa's 75-62 victory over the Wildcats.
Iowa improved to 12-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten, while Northwestern fell to 6-10 and 1-5.
It was also Iowa’s first conference win on the road this season, and one of the few times that a Big Ten team has won a conference game away from home this season.
Big Ten teams were a combined 5-32 on the road heading into this week’s game.
Iowa might be short on depth without starting point guard Jordan Bohannon and without starting forward Jack Nunge, both of whom are out for the season due to injuries.
But there still were a numbers of players who made significant contributions during Tuesday’s game, including, of course, junior center Luka Garza.
The Big Ten’s leading scorer overcame foul problems to score 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Garza scored the first 10 points for Iowa to start the game, and then he scored 14 consecutive points during the second half to help Iowa pull away.
“I just learned over time to stay composed,” Garza said on the Big Ten Network post-game show. “Coach was on me about that after my third foul. He told me he was going to go back to me and told me to stay composed and come out there aggressive again.
“And I had confidence I could score the ball the whole game. I was just on the bench for fouls.”
Iowa improved to 9-2 in games in which Garza has scored at least 20 points.
Garza made an old-fashioned 3-point play to expand Iowa’s lead to 65-50 with seven minutes left to play.
The outcome was all but decided at that point as Northwestern never threatened again, losing to Iowa for the fourth time in a row.
Senior forward Ryan Kriener and graduate transfer guard Bakari Evelyn both came off the bench and made a significant impact, while sophomore guard Connor McCaffery scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists.
Junior forward Cordell Pemsl also drew praise from Fran McCaffery, even without scoring. Pemsl had four assists, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 15 minutes off the bench.
Fredrick’s return helped to compensate for Joe Wieskamp having a rare off night on offense. Wieskamp only made 2-of-8 shots from the field, but he impacted the game in other ways with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.
Freshman point guard Joe Toussaint was held scoreless in Tuesday’s game, but it didn’t matter as his teammates helped to pick up the slack.
Fredrick’s return is huge because it gives Iowa more options on offense and because he is arguably Iowa’s best 3-point shooter without Bohannon in the lineup.
Fran McCaffery was asked on the Big Ten Network post-game show if he was surprised that Fredrick played so well after being out.
“He’s just a baller,” McCaffery said. “He stayed in shape. He was in a boot. He did a little on the bike. He got some shots up on Sunday, and he got a few shots up yesterday.
“But he’s a guy, you put him out there, he’s going to make plays. He’s going to make shots. He’s fearless, and that’s why I love him.”
Iowa led 41-35 at halftime despite being outrebounded 22-11, including 11-0 on the offensive end.
The Hawkeyes compensated by shooting 53.6 percent from the field in the first half and by outscoring Northwestern 24-12 from 3-point range.
Iowa made 8-of-15 shots from 3-point range, while the Wildcats only made 4-of-12 attempts from behind the arc, and shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the first half.
Iowa had four players who made at least one trey in the first half, led by Fredrick with three.
Evelyn came off the bench to score eight points in the first half.
Garza scored the first 10 points for Iowa, but he didn’t score again in the first half.
Garza then picked his third foul just seconds into the second half on a charging call and went to the bench with 19:38 left in the second half.
He sat for over eight minutes, but then made an immediate impact on his return, scoring seven consecutive points to give Iowa a 58-46 lead midway through the second half.