IOWA CITY, Ia. — Joe Wieskamp is coming off the worst shooting night of his young basketball career.
Is the Hawkeye freshman eager to atone for an 0-for-5 showing?
“I wish the game was tonight. I wish it was last night, honestly,” Wieskamp said Thursday. “Just being that competitive, you want to get back out there and compete right now.”
Alas, Wieskamp and the No. 19 Hawkeyes (20-6, 9-6 Big Ten Conference) will have to wait until 8:15 p.m. Friday to play their penultimate home game of the season. Indiana (13-13, 4-11) is the opponent. Tickets were nearly sold out as of Thursday afternoon. The telecast will be on FS1.
Two weeks ago, Iowa hung a 77-72 loss on the Hoosiers in Bloomington. It’s part of a stretch of play that has seen the once-ranked team lose 11 of 12 games.
Wieskamp had 13 points in that one, 12 coming in the first half. He was often matched up with Hoosiers star freshman Romeo Langford, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half.
“Romeo’s a very good defender, especially on me the second half,” Wieskamp said. “I’ve just got to watch film and see ways I can exploit their defense.”
Wieskamp’s back soreness has subsided considerably, he said. He was calm and confident when talking with reporters, showing no signs that his two-point outing in Tuesday’s 66-65 loss to Maryland was still bothering him.
That may be a bad sign for the beleaguered Hoosiers. Wieskamp averages 11.4 points per game on 50.5 percent shooting. He’s been held without a field goal only two times previously this season. Each time, he made six in his next outing.
On Tuesday, Wieskamp’s problems started with two early fouls that found him saddled to the bench for the final 14 minutes of the first half. Fouls have not been an issue for him often this season. He’s never been whistled for more than three in a game. He admitted he did not respond well against Maryland.
“I think when I got back in there, I didn’t necessarily force things, but I didn’t let the game come to me like I usually try to. I tried to make some things happen,” Wieskamp said. “It’s just something I’ve got to learn from.”
Wieskamp’s presence on the wing has been one of the most positive differences between last year’s 14-19 Iowa team and this year’s NCAA Tournament-bound outfit. Another has been Connor McCaffery at backup point guard.
McCaffery’s pinpoint inbounds passes to Jordan Bohannon helped seal the Feb. 7 victory at Indiana. Bohannon kept getting fouled. He scored the Hawkeyes’ final 11 points.
McCaffery had three points and three steals against the Hoosiers. He had five assists in the next game, a win over Northwestern. Against Maryland, McCaffery contributed six points and four assists, but also a season-high four turnovers.
The redshirt freshman said he’s learning something every game in his first go-around in the Big Ten. McCaffery is often in the lineup late in close games.
“The physicality is different in the league. You can’t see it from watching it. There’s nothing that you can adjust to until you go through it,” McCaffery said. “The guys that you’re in with at the end of the game, they’ve been through it, too. It’s never like you’re on your own. I like to think of myself as … pretty steady in late-game situations. I feel confident.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off their worst shooting game of the season, 19-for-58 (32.8 percent). Wieskamp certainly wasn’t the only culprit.
“I think it was good shooters missing shots,” McCaffery said, dismissing the notion that there was a lingering problem.
The Hawkeyes have been resilient this season, with the same cast of characters from a year ago, plus the two additions. Now, the challenge is to protect their home court against a team with little to play for at this stage of the season.
“Joe has been tremendous. Connor has been great. So that gave us the depth in the backcourt we didn't have,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery explained of his team’s ability to bounce back from losses. “So there's a lot of factors involved, and it's been fun to watch.”