Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp says coach Fran McCaffery had a direct message for the team at halftime of Tuesday's win over Pitt Mark Emmert, email@example.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa men's basketball team has one senior and one true freshman in its playing rotation.
On Tuesday, those two were just enough to pull the Hawkeyes out of a hole and pull out a 69-68 win over Pitt at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes' old hand, Nicholas Baer, had the hot hand when it mattered most. His trio of 3-pointers gave Iowa the lead for good with 6 minutes, 6 seconds remaining. Baer finished with a season-high 16 points, 14 of them coming in the second half, including a stretch of 11 straight that tilted the game in his team's favor.
Baer's first 3-pointer cut the Pitt lead to 58-56 with 9:02 left. The next time down court, he was clapping his hands and begging guard Connor McCaffery for the ball. He got it at the top of the key and buried it to put his team ahead.
"I knew I just hit one and after hitting one I'm looking for a shot too," Baer said. "Credit to Connor, he was able to find me, and a little pitch-back play. I was able to knock it down."
Baer entered the game 2-for-12 from 3-point range.
Freshman Joe Wieskamp scored 18 points to lead the Hawkeyes. He added a game-high 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
"If I see a play, just go and make it. I don't try to force any shots," Wieskamp said after making 7 of 13.
Pitt coach Jeff Capel said Wieskamp had impressed him on film.
"I think he moves really well without the ball. Obviously he can shoot the basketball. I thought he was their best cutter on tape as we prepared," Capel said.
Iowa needed all of that production to overcome some early bad defense and a visiting Panthers team that kept the pressure on the Hawkeyes all night — something Iowa hadn't seen yet this season.
Neither team led by more than seven points in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge contest that was hard-fought if not always easy to watch. Iowa won despite making only 37 percent of its shots (19 of 52). Baer and Wieskamp combined to make 7 of 13 3-pointers, however, and all seemed to come at crucial moments.
And Iowa again enjoyed a large advantage in free throws, sinking 19 to Pitt's eight.
Pitt (6-1) showed its hand early. The Panthers were going to take it right into the teeth of the Iowa defense and force the Hawkeyes to adjust.
Pitt scored its first 10 points in the paint. Guard Trey McGowens once weaved past three Iowa defenders for a layup like he was running a cone drill.
The Panthers shot 19 of 31 (61.3 percent) in the opening half and led 46-40. It was the worst half of the season for the Hawkeyes, who looked a step slow on both ends of the court.
No. 15 Iowa (6-0) was able to keep close by making 8 of 15 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. Even then, it wasn’t always easy. Jordan Bohannon had one bounce high off the rim before somehow plummeting back down and in. Luka Garza shot a knuckleball from the top of the key that thudded off the back rim and then through the net.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery kept trying to match Pitt with a smaller lineup of three guards and either the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp or 6-7 Baer at the power forward spot.
The Panthers kept solving whatever McCaffery tried.
At halftime, McCaffery lit into his players. They all said afterward they deserved that. And they responded. In the second half, Iowa's defense dug deeper. Pitt made just 7 of 24 shots after intermission as the pace slowed noticeably.
"We weren't battling the way we need to battle against a team of this caliber," McCaffery said.
"They scored 22 points in the second half. You know, we slid our feet. Wee battled on the glass. We got to the floor, and we really fought."