Hawkeyes watch lead disappear, but make enough clutch plays to hold off Cincinnati

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

CHICAGO — Iowa let a 15-point lead slip away Saturday because it couldn't do the simple things.

Like bringing the ball upcourt against a press. Or making free throws.

Cincinnati kept forcing turnovers and cutting into the lead. The Bearcats finally took a lead late in the Chicago Legends game at the United Center.

But the Hawkeyes found an answer. Joe Wieskamp nailed a 3-pointer. Bakari Evelyn, in by far his best game in an Iowa uniform, followed with another.

Iowa was playing without Jordan Bohannon. And the Hawkeyes found a way to hang on, pulling out a 77-70 victory.

CJ Fredrick led the way for Iowa with 21 points. Wieskamp added 16. Evelyn had 15, including the final two free throws, and Luka Garza chipped in 12.

Somehow, Iowa survived a season-high 24 turnovers. It won despite making only 20 of 30 free throws.

The Hawkeyes won by sheer force of will. It was a tough game to watch, but Iowa showed the most toughness.

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) shoots against Cincinnati center Chris Vogt (33) during the first half of Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.

It was the second consecutive seven-point win for Iowa against Cincinnati. The Hawkeyes dropped the Bearcats 79-72 in March in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament back in March.

Iowa (9-3) led 39-31 at halftime thanks to balanced scoring and a sizable rebounding advantage. Fredrick, a Cincinnati native, led the way with 10 points. Wieskamp had eight, Garza seven, Evelyn six and Ryan Kriener five.

The Hawkeyes outrebounded Cincinnati 27-16, led by Connor McCaffery’s seven.

But Iowa hurt itself with uncharacteristic turnovers. The Hawkeyes entered play averaging 11 per game, and had 10 in the first half.

It was a ragged starting debut for freshman point guard Joe Toussaint. He got the nod after senior Jordan Bohannon underwent season-ending hip surgery Thursday.

Toussaint committed two turnovers and was whistled for a foul in the opening 3 minutes. Evelyn replaced him, and turned in his best sequence as a Hawkeye. The graduate transfer from Valparaiso buried a pair of 3-pointers and added three assists. His season-high in points had been five.

Toussaint sat for 15 minutes, then committed another offensive foul when he checked back in. Fortunately, his teammates had his back in the early going.

Evelyn started in his place in the second half. Toussaint entered the game briefly, and was called for a third foul. He sat the rest of the way.

After four ties and seven lead changes, the Hawkeyes went on an 8-0 scoring run in the final minutes of the first half, getting a baseline floater from Fredrick, then 3-pointers from Wieskamp and Garza to finally gain a little separation.

Cincinnati (7-5) made only 12 of 37 shots in the opening half (32.4%).

Iowa next hosts Kennesaw State on Dec. 29.

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.