Iowa's Joe Wieskamp playing at an all-Big Ten level alongside Luka Garza
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Luka Garza is casting such a large shadow this season that even Joe Wieskamp can get lost in it.
He shouldn’t be.
Wieskamp, a sophomore guard on the Iowa basketball team, has been spectacular in the games that matter most, ranking fifth in the Big Ten Conference in scoring in league games. Wieskamp has averaged 18.6 points in those eight contests.
Sure, Garza, a junior center, leads the way with an improbable 28 points per Big Ten game. But you can make the case that the No. 19 Hawkeyes (14-5, 5-3 Big Ten) have two athletes performing at a first-team, all-conference level.
- Wieskamp also ranks 10th in rebounding at 6.8 per Big Ten game.
- He is tops in the conference with 22 made 3-pointers, hitting them at a 43% clip.
- He is second in free-throw percentage at 93.9 (31-for-33).
- And he has done this while logging 34.8 minutes per game, ninth in the league and the most of any Iowa player.
In short, the Wieskamp of January 2020 is the version Iowa fans expected all along when he arrived from Muscatine after breaking the state’s big-school scoring record.
“I don’t show a lot of emotion, but just competing is when I have fun. You feel the crowd’s energy of the home court,” Wieskamp said after Iowa defeated Rutgers on Wednesday. “I think that’s one of the main reasons why I came here is to play for coach (Fran) McCaffery, who has an up-pace, up-tempo offense that scores a lot of points. That fits right in with my style.”
The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring, at 80.2 points per game. Next up is a 7:30 p.m. Monday home game against Wisconsin on the Big Ten Network.
Wieskamp, who has scored 20 or more points in five Big Ten games already, will look to keep it rolling as the wing man for Garza.
The Rutgers game showed his maturation. Wieskamp canned a 3 for Iowa’s initial points. Seconds later, he fell heavily on his elbow, the same one he hyperextended in the first game of the season.
Wieskamp’s next three shots looked awkward leaving his hand and were off-target. Afterward, he said the elbow injury wasn’t the cause.
In any event, Wieskamp had a pep talk with himself at halftime, with Iowa trailing by five points. He needed to drive into the teeth of the Big Ten’s best defense, Wieskamp decided.
It was the correct choice.
Wieskamp made a layup that he didn’t even see go in because he took a hard fall in the process. No foul was called.
The home crowd was miffed. Wieskamp was unruffled.
He went right back to the rim a minute later, getting the basket and the foul this time. Naturally, he made the free throw. Suddenly, the score was tied.
Wieskamp grabbed a defensive rebound and went the length of the court for another and-one that pushed the Hawkeye lead to 60-55.
He scored his next four points on free throws and saved his best stretch for when Iowa fell behind 77-76. First, Wieskamp noticed CJ Fredrick on a curl cut with a defender on his hip. That assist put the Hawkeyes ahead to stay.
But, just to be sure, Wieskamp stepped to the top of the key with 89 seconds remaining to swish another 3-pointer, even allowing himself a little celebration afterward.
That was 15 second-half points, 18 for the game. Iowa has won four in a row. Wieskamp had 75 points in those — 30 on 3-pointers, 25 on free throws and 20 on drives into the lane.
That’s three-level scoring. That’s next-level awareness for Wieskamp, who averaged 11.1 points per game as a freshman when he was often the fourth scoring option for the Hawkeyes.
He’s second only to Garza now. And that’s exactly what Iowa needs.
Wieskamp has scored in double digits in 10 consecutive games. He had his second and third career double-doubles in two of them.
And he still wants more consistency out of himself.
“I can’t go in spurts of being really aggressive and spurts where I defer to others and just kind of stand in the corner,” Wieskamp said. “I think I’m doing a better job of it, and being aggressive when I need to be. But I think I can even take that up another level.
“I wish I would have had a better nonconference season, but can’t change that. I know that there’s opportunities night in and night out in the Big Ten, going up against really good opponents, a lot of ranked teams in the Big Ten. So I’ve just got to continue to fight every night.”
Wieskamp was the only Hawkeye named to the preseason all-conference team. Garza has been the surprise star of the league.
Wieskamp, quietly, is living up to his billing.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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