Iowa gets back on winning track with 79-66 victory over Rutgers
Junior Joe Wieskamp leads the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The struggling Iowa men’s basketball team needed someone besides Luka Garza to step up on Wednesday against a surging Rutgers squad, and junior Joe Wieskamp delivered in a big way.
On a night when Garza didn’t have his typical offensive performance, making only 8-of-20 field goal attempts, Wieskamp helped to pick up the slack on offense by scoring 26 points, including 16 in the first half as No. 15 Iowa defeated No. 25 Rutgers 79-66 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa only shot 43.3 percent from the field, but that’s sort of misleading because Wieskamp and his cohorts made 11-of-23 attempts from 3-point range, with Wieskamp making five of his seven attempts.
Wieskamp has made 29-of-44 attempts from 3-point range over the last eight games. He also matched Garza with 10 rebounds in Wednesday’s game.
“I wanted to come out here and play a complete game,” Wieskamp said. “Play a complete 40 or 35 minutes, however, long I was out there. I feel like I was able to do a better job of continuing to stay aggressive in the second half, though it wasn’t until the eight-minute mark until I started getting things going. I just kept staying with it.
“Guys were up in my space, they were fouling me all game. I felt like I did a good job just fighting through that, playing through the physicality and letting the game come to me.”
The 6-foot-6 Wieskamp, who is from Muscatine, earned high praise from his head coach.
“I thought it was one of those complete performances,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “I played him in different spots. He made shots when we need him, he rebounded the ball, he defended. No mistakes. He was really special tonight, no question.”
Iowa also played with more aggression and awareness on defense, especially on the perimeter, as Rutgers only made 6-of-28 shots from 3-pont range.
Sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick returned to the starting lineup for Iowa after having missed the last 2 ½ games with what has been described as a lower leg injury.
Fredrick was hampered by foul problems in Wednesday’s game, and he also seemed hobbled by his injury at times. He was held scoreless and only attempted three shots, but he did have three assists while playing 17 minutes.
Instead of sitting on the bench when he wasn’t in the lineup, Fredrick stood and often rocked back and forth as if to stay loose.
Fran McCaffery said Fredrick’s injury could linger throughout the season, but the fact that Fredrick was able to play in Wednesday’s game was encouraging.
“Two days ago I called my parents after and I said this was probably one of the best days of practice I had and I felt like myself, kind of had tears in my eyes,” Fredrick said. “I’ve been feeling a lot better. I thought I did everything I could out there today. I felt pretty good after the game.”
Even without scoring, the 6-3 Fredrick impacted the game in a positive way.
“He’s a guy that just understands how to play,” Fran McCaffery said. “He understands situations. He affects the game in different ways. He doesn’t have to score because he’s a terrific passer, he’s a good defender, he’s an athlete. He’s a tough kid.”
Garza grinded his way to 22 points, but it was a struggle for him on offense.
Iowa assisted on 20 of its 26 baskets against a Rutgers squad that prides itself on playing in-your-face defense.
Senior point guard Jordan Bohannon finished with 12 point, while freshman forward Keegan Murray added 10 points and six rebound off the bench.
But the story on this night was how Wieskamp rose to the occasion when his team so desperately needed someone beside Garza to step up.
Iowa had lost four of its previous five games, while Rutgers entered Wednesday’s game riding a four-game winning streak.
Iowa improved to 14-6 overall and 8-5 in the Big Ten and will try to make it two wins in a row when when it plays at Michigan State on Saturday.
Iowa defeated the Spartans 84-78 on Feb. 2 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa led Rutgers by as many as 13 points in the first half, but Rutgers cut the deficit to six points (31-25) late in the half.
Wieskamp then capped a 16-point first-half performance by making a 3-point basket to give Iowa a 34-25 lead at the break. The Muscatine native made 6-of-9 field-goal attempts in the first half, including all three of his attempts from 3-point range.
He also matched Garza with seven rebounds in the first half.
The question at halftime was whether Wieskamp’s hot shooting would carry to the second half, or would he disappear in the second half as he did in Sunday’s 67-65 loss at Indiana where he scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half.
This time, Wieskamp didn’t disappear on offense in the second half.
He made some clutch baskets down the stretch in the second half as Rutgers tried to chip away at the deficit.
Iowa’s defense deserves at least part of the credit for Rutgers only scoring 25 points in the first half. Rutgers only made 1-of-11 shots from 3-point range in the first half and was 10-of-29 overall from the field in the first 20 minutes.