Leistikow: Time for Joe Wieskamp to become Iowa's closer on the Big Ten road

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Think about how many times in the past 3½ seasons that Jordan Bohannon has pulled up from 22 to 27 feet in a hostile road venue and buried a crowd-silencing, momentum-crushing 3-pointer.

Dozens of times, at least.

Then there’s the free-throw shooting. How often in a close game have we seen Bohannon, as automatic as it gets there at nearly 90% for his career, calmly step to the line and bury two 15-footers to put an Iowa win in the bank?

Dozens of times, at least.

That calming, closing ability is the portion of Bohannon’s season-ending absence (for hip surgery) that the Iowa basketball team is having the most difficult time replacing.

The sample size is two road games, but the evidence is significant.

Especially when CJ Fredrick is out, the Hawkeyes need to keep embracing the idea that Joe Wieskamp (10) is their best chance at closing out road games in the rugged Big Ten.

With Bohannon, Iowa was 2-0 in true road games — winning at both the Carrier Dome and Hilton Coliseum. He left his mark in both venues.

Without him, the Hawkeyes are 0-2 on the road — falling just short against Penn State in Philadelphia, then falling apart last week at Nebraska. 

Against Penn State, Iowa didn’t score for more than two minutes after taking a 78-77 lead with 2:49 to go.

Against Nebraska, Iowa scored one point in a span of more than three minutes after getting to within 62-61 with 4:34 to play.

Even in the 77-70 win against Cincinnati in Chicago, the Hawkeyes (in their first game minus Bohannon) blew a 15-point, second-half lead. They didn't exactly close that one; they survived.

“On the road, you have to have a certain toughness and mentality,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday. “Stay connected. Follow the gameplan. Support each other. And do the best we can to play well.”

Joe Wieskamp knows a hot shooting hand can be tougher to find on the road. After a 1-for-10 performance from 3-point range at Nebraska, in which he shouldered a heavy offensive load by attempting a career-high 23 shots, he felt Bohannon's absence.

“It’s definitely an adjustment for us,” Wieskamp said plainly that night. “… Jordan Bohannon’s one of the clutchest players in Iowa history, so it hurts not having him in late-game situations.”

CJ Fredrick would be a player with perhaps the best chance to replace some elements of Bohannon’s game — particularly the deep accuracy and fearlessness to take big shots, something he showed in Ames on Dec. 12, then against Cincinnati with a team-high 21 points.

But Fredrick, Iowa's third-leading scorer at 10.3 points a game, hasn't scored in 2020 and has missed the Hawkeyes' past five halves of basketball with a stress reaction in his left foot.

It’s an injury that leaves McCaffery uncertain what he’ll get from Fredrick the rest of the season … although on Monday, at least, the 10th-year coach was confident that Fredrick would be back “at some point” this season.

“It’s hard on him,” McCaffery said. “He’s trying to do some things and see how it feels. He shot a little bit (Sunday). Didn’t do much.

“… It’s literally day-to-day. If he has a bad day, he won’t. If he has good days, then he does play, then we’ll see how it goes from there. It’s just probably going to be like that the rest of the season.”

The delicate nature of stress reactions — which are precursors to stress fractures — means Iowa cannot count on Fredrick for each of Iowa’s remaining 15 Big Ten Conference games, seven of which are on the road … starting at 7:01 p.m. Tuesday at Northwestern.

He might play Tuesday, but he probably won't.

According to, this is the only road game remaining that the 24th-ranked Hawkeyes (11-5 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) are projected to win. They're 0-3 on the Big Ten road so far. After this, trips to (in order) Maryland, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois remain. All six of those teams are in KenPom's top 38; Northwestern (6-9, 1-4) is No. 104. 

Bottom line: Iowa needs to find a way to close out the 'Cats.

The Hawkeyes should be able to draw some confidence from last year’s Jan. 9 trip to the revamped Welsh-Ryan Arena. They played short-handed that day, too, minus leading scorer Tyler Cook.

Wieskamp scored 10 big early-second-half points on his way to a game-high 19. Luka Garza, coming off an ankle injury, scored 16 points off the bench. And, naturally, Bohannon closed out a 73-63 win by scoring Iowa’s final six points.

Wieskamp would do well to channel last year's performance at Northwestern and serve as Iowa's Tuesday closer.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Muscatine has enough ball-handling skills to be the new Bohannon late in games. Give him the basketball at the top of the key and let him operate as the shot clock winds down. He’s an 82.4% free-throw shooter and is good at drawing fouls; he's still 39.6% from 3 even after that forgettable night in Lincoln.

Putting a team on his back is nothing new; Wieskamp was largely a one-man show for four years at Muscatine. He just hasn't had to be that guy in college, until now.

“I’m always a scorer. That’s what I’ve always been,” Wieskamp said after posting a career-high 26 points in Friday’s 67-49 win against Maryland. “It’s nothing new for me, and I’m excited to take on this big of a role.”

Now Wieskamp, Garza and the Hawkeyes need to demonstrate they can take this show on the road.

The stakes are high.

If they can’t find a closing formula away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, they’ll truly be in danger of going 0-for-10 on the Big Ten road. It only gets tougher after Tuesday.

If they can, they’ll more than likely be happy Hawkeyes on Selection Sunday.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 25 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.