Leistikow: 3 thoughts from Iowa's loss at Indiana, including Wieskamp's role and McCaffery's timeout usage

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Throughout Joe Wieskamp’s fantastic high school career at Muscatine, he was surrounded by players wearing the other uniform. Seeing two or three defenders invading his space was the norm. Opposing coaches knew that if they could stop Wieskamp, Muscatine had no shot.

Wieskamp plans to (and needs to) draw on that experience as he hits the home stretch of his sophomore season at Iowa, especially if shooting guard CJ Fredrick is going to miss some time with a sprained ankle he suffered in Thursday’s 89-77 loss at Indiana.

“Even before CJ was out, but especially when he was out, they were really focused on me, all up into my space,” said Wieskamp, who finished with 16 points after heating up late. “If I drove, there were two to three guys there. Not a lot of room for me to operate. But I battled out of different things in high school, so I think I’ve just got to refer back to that.”

At Muscatine, Wieskamp overcame did all he could to find his way around every defensive ploy. He averaged 33.5 points per game that year and became the all-time leading scorer in Class 4-A. He carried the Muskies to their first state-tournament berth in 16 years.

So, yeah, he's done this before. But this is the Big Ten Conference, not the Mississippi Athletic Conference.

As Joe goes, so will go the Hawkeyes (17-8 overall, 8-6 Big Ten) in these final six regular-season games.

When Fredrick missed 2½ games in January with a stress reaction in his left foot, Iowa won only once, but it was memorable. The Hawkeyes chopped down Maryland, 67-49, as Wieskamp filled the nets for 26 points. He was spectacular that night, and he'll have to be that way again for Iowa to add more wins.

Joe Wieskamp got more aggressive in the second half against Indiana, and will need to play that way Sunday at Minnesota and beyond.

It took him too long against the Hoosiers to get it going. He hit Iowa’s first basket of the game, then didn’t score again until 12:05 remained. By that point, Iowa’s deficit was 62-44.

“I need to do a better job of starting early, recognizing the way that they’re playing me,” Wieskamp said. “I’ve got to realize, especially with CJ hurt, they’re going to be all over me.”

It is extremely unlikely Fredrick plays in Sunday’s noon CST game at Minnesota.

Wieskamp had 23 points and went 5-for-7 from 3-point range against the Gophers in Iowa’s 72-52 home rout Dec. 10. But Fredrick (10 points) played in that game. So did Jordan Bohannon (10 assists). Neither is available this time. The attention on Wieskamp, as the only remaining guard that can consistently hit 3-pointers, will be escalated.

“Obviously I had a pretty good game against Minnesota last time,” Wieskamp said. “They’re going to remember that. They’re going to be all over me.”

But Iowa's road-game defense is its biggest concern.

For the second straight road game, Iowa allowed its opponent to record a season high in 3-pointers. Indiana hit 11 on Thursday night, seven coming from hot-or-cold guard Devonte Green — including four without a miss during a stretch of 2:33. Purdue hit 19 last week.

Yeah, that’s two trips to the state of Indiana in which the Hawkeyes’ opponent converted a combined 30 3-pointers on 55 attempts (a staggering 54.5%). Ouch.

After doing a little research, it's got to be pointed out that this Iowa defense is just as bad on the Big Ten road, if not worse, than the debacle of 2018.

The Hawkeyes went 1-8 on the Big Ten road during that forgettable 14-19 campaign. In those nine games, the Hawkeyes allowed an average of 85.2 points and permitted 42.0% success from 3-point range.

This year? Iowa’s 1-6 on the Big Ten road (yes, I’m counting the Penn State game in Philadelphia). The numbers: 86.4 points per game allowed (worse than 2018) and 40.0% opponent 3s (a modest improvement but still very bad).

“We’ve been really good on the road different times this year. We beat Syracuse (68-54) on the road. We beat Iowa State (84-68) when they were hot,” Garza said. “… Right there with Penn State at the Palestra (89-86 loss). We just have to get back to how we were playing on the road back then.”

With tough trips to Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois remaining, a 1-9 Big Ten road finish is on the table. Iowa’s saving grace this season is that it’s been a great home team.

As far as the defense goes, coach Fran McCaffery doesn’t seem to have any answers.

“Just got to play better defense,” he said afterward. “It’s nothing scientific.”

McCaffery’s timeout usage (or lack thereof) is fair game for second-guessing.

This is not a new complaint, obviously. McCaffery, 60, has always been stingy about calling timeouts, preferring to save them for the end of the game. That can be a point of frustration for fans who see Iowa trying to ride out an opponent hot streak on the road. It was unfathomable that he only used one timeout of his available four in last week’s 104-68 loss at Purdue.

Rather than just shouting about it, I’ve tried to take a measured look at time and situation and analyze how other coaches use timeouts, too. Watch a Michigan State game sometime, and observe the methodical ways Tom Izzo expends his TOs.

Here are one man's observations from Thursday night.

During a first-half run that saw Indiana score on seven straight possessions (which included five 3s), there were opportunities for McCaffery to call timeout to stop the bleeding.

I thought at the time McCaffery should’ve called timeout after Trace Jackson-Davis’ fast-break lay-in off a Joe Toussaint turnover made it 19-13. But Garza did respond by coolly burying a 3-pointer, which is about as good an answer as McCaffery could hope for. McCaffery finally signaled for a timeout after two more Indiana 3s made it 25-16 and had the place rocking.

A little late? Maybe. But if Iowa responds there, maybe not. Instead, Indiana kept building its lead. THAT is where McCaffery would have been well-served to spend his second timeout. Instead, he tried to survive with a lineup of Bakari Evelyn, Connor McCaffery, Riley Till, Ryan Kriener and Garza. Indiana’s lead swelled to 31-16. Not long after, Fredrick got hurt. Another missed opportunity there, to use a timeout to settle down the team — and get Austin Ash ready for his first meaningful Big Ten action ever — but one never came.

Timeouts aren't just for stopping runs. Consider the TO that Archie Miller took with 5:52 to go, after a made Indiana bucket gave his team a 70-58 lead. Why call it then? I think Miller saw that Wieskamp was heating up (he had scored 11 points in a stretch that cut Iowa’s deficit from 18 to 10) and wanted to get his guys refocused for the stretch run.

Iowa didn’t score again for almost two minutes. It worked.

You could argue that one timeout here or there might not be the difference in a 12-point loss. But timeouts are meant to be used, and the best coaches pick strategic spots to use them to cut off dicey situations before it’s too late.

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.