Hawkeye shooting guard CJ Fredrick lights up Cal Poly: What else we learned

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. – CJ Fredrick is the starting shooting guard for the Iowa men's basketball team this season.

On Sunday, he showed why. Fredrick hit a 3-pointer on the Hawkeyes' opening possession and never relented, scoring a career-high 21 points in an 85-59 drubbing of Cal Poly.

"I just felt like the past couple games I wasn't being myself. I felt like I was passing up open shots and trying to get in the lane when things weren't there, when really I had an open shot," Fredrick said.

That wasn't an issue Sunday. Fredrick, a redshirt freshman, made all five of his 3-pointers, added five assists, and was the biggest reason Iowa ran its record to 4-1.

"You see that first one go in and you get the confidence that, you know, the next one's going in. And the next one went in. And the next one went in," Fredrick said. "So, yeah, it was lot of fun."

Fredrick entered play averaging 7.8 points per game. He has been held scoreless twice in first halves of games. He was determined to make in impact from the outset. And did.

After his first 3 fell, Fredrick stepped out deeper and drained another. In the second half, he sank a lightly contested 3 from the right elbow. The next time, he lined one up from a little farther out and hit it while drawing a foul, completing a four-point play.

He showed his athleticism later in the half with a steal and drive for a layup. Fredrick finished 7-for-8 with no turnovers. For one long stretch midway through the second half, he was the only Iowa starter on the court.

Iowa's victory did come at a cost. Starting power forward Jack Nunge went down hard late in the first half and appeared to injure his right knee. He did not return to the game, although he did sit on the bench in uniform in the second half. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Nunge will get an MRI on the knee Monday.

Iowa guard CJ Fredrick (5) drives to the basket for a layup during a NCAA non-conference men's basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Here’s what we learned:

HAWKEYES DEFEND THE 3-POINT ARC: Cal Poly came in to the game 34 of 75 from the 3-point arc (45.3 percent). It was easy to see the focus of Iowa’s man-to-man defense: Make the Mustangs take contested or very long 3s. It worked. The Hawkeyes were aggressive on closeouts and Cal Poly (1-5) missed all 10 of its 3-point attempts in the first half. The Mustangs finished 3-for-22.

"I think you saw the preparation, just being in the gaps, talking, communicating, hitting the roll guys early and still being there on the catch," Fredrick said.

BOHANNON SITS ONE OUT: Iowa senior guard Jordan Bohannon took the day off to rest his surgically repaired hip. It’s the first game he’s missed this season, and it made sense. The Hawkeyes had little reason to fear Cal Poly, and they have games coming up against Texas Tech, Syracuse, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa State. Bohannon can play in up to 10 games before deciding whether to take a medical redshirt, which seems like an inevitability. He might as well make those games count.

"Jordan was pretty sore," McCaffery said.

"We'll hopefully get him ready to play the first one," he added, speaking of Iowa's two-game tournament in Las Vegas that starts Thursday with a matchup against Texas Tech.

OFFENSE RUNS THROUGH GARZA: Center Luka Garza has been Iowa’s best player in the early going, scoring at least 14 points in each game and averaging a Big Ten Conference-leading 23.3 entering play. He has become a volume shooter, averaging 15 shot attempts per game, by far the highest on the team. He is making them at a 59-percent rate. But running an offense through a post player also can result in little motion from the other four players. Garza is frequently double-teamed, but has only three assists on the season, with eight turnovers. He’s going to have to become a more effective passer to really make this offense flow.

Garza is aware. He believes he's already making strides.

"I was disappointed with myself when we played DePaul, how I handled the double-team," he said of a 93-78 loss on Nov. 11 in which he had a season-high three turnovers. 

"But now I think I'm doing a really good job. I found some people (Sunday), moved it out when they were doubling. And tried to just face the basket and make a read, when to go, when not to go. I tried to get my guy deep so it was hard to double. That's how I'm going to have to play from here on out. Just because, when they scout our team, there's going to be a lot of doubling me and I'm going to move the ball."

Garza had 18 points and nine rebounds Sunday, just missing his fourth double-double of the season.

PEMSL HAS HIS BEST DAY: Junior forward Cordell Pemsl looked more like himself Sunday, banging inside for a season-high 10 points in 16 minutes. He had two assists on terrific passes to the interior. He even had four fouls, a sign that he's starting to flex his muscle after losing a season to knee surgery.

"He was great," McCaffery said. "He really understands how to come off the bench and impact the game."

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

No one covers the Hawkeyes like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.