Iowa freshman forward Joe Wieskamp had his finest game against Northwestern. Hear him talk about why it happened and the significance of it: Mark Emmert, email@example.com
EVANSTON, Ill. — Just as Luka Garza returned to the Iowa basketball lineup, Tyler Cook departed.
But Joe Wieskamp never left.
The freshman forward from Muscatine had his finest moment as a Hawkeye on Wednesday, just when things seemed darkest at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Wieskamp scored 10 of his 19 points in a stretch of 1 minute, 56 seconds to help Iowa erase a second-half, seven-point deficit and earn an elusive Big Ten Conference road victory, 73-63 over Northwestern.
"I found more scoring opportunities and became more assertive and took advantage of those opportunities," said Wieskamp, who attempted only three shots in the first half.
"Just looking to take them to the rim."
After the game, Hawkeye players surrounded the normally stoic Wieskamp, whooping it up and even drawing a smile from the man of the hour.
Wieskamp admitted that being the star player in a Big Ten road win was a big moment for him.
"I've had confidence in myself all season. Coaches have had confidence in me. But I felt like that's the type of player that I am. I just hope to continue that," he said.
"It's fun being around these guys. They're all great guys, make me feel good about myself."
The Hawkeyes had lost 10 of their previous 11 Big Ten road games, falling behind by at least 17 points in each. Not having Cook, their junior leader, for this one did not bode well. Seeing a nine-point lead become a seven-point hole wasn't exactly inspiring, either.
Enter Wieskamp, who cut inside for a pair of baskets, then stepped out to hit a 3-pointer. He deked a Wildcat defender seconds later and raced in for a layup while drawing a foul. He was intending to dunk that one, he said, but a Wildcat grabbed his arm.
Suddenly, Iowa was back ahead and never relinquished the lead. In fact, the Wildcats never again drew within a single possession.
Garza, coming off the bench for a second consecutive game after missing three with a sprained left ankle, was also vital in willing the Hawkeyes to a victory. He repeatedly drew fouls on Northwestern's smaller post players — nine in all — making 10-of-11 free throws to finish with 16 points.
"We knew (Dererk) Pardon had two (fouls) and we wanted to give him his third one early. When coach (Fran McCaffery) brought me off the bench, he just told me to go at him," Garza said. "They're a different team when he's not on the floor. I just tried to attack them and get their bigs in foul trouble because when you make those hard, aggressive moves it's hard for them not to foul. I was just trying to get close to the rim, get to my moves. Fortunately, the refs were giving me some calls."
Pardon fouled out with 4:07 left in the game. He scored only six points.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery speaks about why Joe Wieskamp was able to handle a big moment in a road victory. Listen in: Mark Emmert, firstname.lastname@example.org
Iowa (13-3, 2-3 Big Ten Conference) was playing without starting power forward Cook for the first time in two seasons. Cook, the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer (17.3 points per game) and rebounder (8.3), had a sore knee and was held out of the game, although he was in uniform.
The knee has been bothering Cook for awhile, McCaffery said. It wasn't until Wednesday morning's shootaround, however, that the coach was informed his star might not be well enough to play. Cook is considered day to day.
That moved Nicholas Baer into the starting lineup, alongside center Ryan Kriener, who was making his second career start. Garza backed up Kriener again, but ended up playing 26 minutes, the ankle looking just fine.
The Hawkeyes relied on balanced scoring and some determined defense to forge a 34-34 halftime tie. Iowa led by nine points twice in the half only to see Northwestern (10-6, 1-4) rally.
Iowa shooting guard Isaiah Moss scored nine first-half points to lead the offense. But all eight Hawkeyes who played scored in the opening 20 minutes, including a pair of 3-pointers from Baer.
The Hawkeyes committed only three turnovers in the first half, but each led to Wildcat baskets. Iowa also made only 4-of-7 free throws, one game after sinking 29-of-32 against Nebraska.
That turned around in the second half, thanks to Garza. Iowa finished 21-of-26 from the line.
And that was more than enough to secure a victory more than a year in the making. The Hawkeyes were well aware of their struggles in league play when not at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Wieskamp wasn't part of last season's 1-8 record in league road games.
But he was the biggest part of helping erase that futility on this night.
"I think he had a statement performance (Wednesday). I thought he was phenomenal," Baer said of Wieskamp. "I'm really proud of him, but not surprised in the least. ... We definitely needed him."
Iowa next hosts Ohio State at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.