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Iowa Hawkeyes analysis: A deeper look at Joe Wieskamp's career night vs. Nebraska

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — It was Joe Wieskamp who finally ended an 8-minute stretch of offensive futility for the Iowa basketball team in the first half Saturday.

And it was Wieskamp who ignited a second-half rout of Nebraska at soldout Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The 96-72 Hawkeye victory had Wieskamp’s fingerprints all over it. He finished with a career-high 30 points and was able to sit for the final 10 minutes as his team could relax at home for once.

“I just kind of came out and tried to separate the game to start the second half,” Wieskamp said. “We don’t want them to hang around, give them confidence that they can stay with us the rest of the half. So we wanted to just send a punch right away.”

Wieskamp delivered the punch with both hands to score Iowa’s first basket of the second half. He noticed junior center Luka Garza drawing a double-team and squaring up to survey the court. Wieskamp was on the far wing, which would have made for a tough pass. So he cut toward the basket, where Garza delivered the basketball and Wieskamp quickly flushed it to put the Hawkeyes ahead 43-32.

Nebraska, losers of eight straight games, never closed the gap below 11 points again.

“We really wanted to come out and make a statement (Saturday) and win pretty easily,” Wieskamp said.

Mission accomplished.

No. 17 Iowa (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten Conference) won at home for the 11th consecutive time. But, unlike the past four, the Hawkeyes didn’t have to rally in the second half for this win.

And it was even sweeter because Iowa was coming off a 104-68 loss at Purdue on Wednesday that Wieskamp called “embarrassing.”

Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp drives to the basket against Nebraska's Cam Mack and Kevin Cross during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

The victory wasn’t seamless, however. The Hawkeyes raced to a 25-9 lead and looked to be primed to put the Cornhuskers (7-16, 2-10) away before intermission.

But Iowa missed its next 11 shots, going 8 minutes without registering a point while Nebraska closed to 25-21.

Finally, Wieskamp had seen enough.

“I didn’t even realize we hadn’t scored in 8 straight minutes,” he said. “I just got the ball and tried to make a play, rip and drive and get an easy one around the rim.”

Wieskamp followed that drive with a jumpshot. Suddenly, all was right with the Hawkeyes again. They ended up with 96 points, the most ever in 34 meetings against Nebraska, despite that lengthy drought.

Wieskamp scored 20 points in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. He finished that flurry with nine points in 73 seconds, on a pair of 3-pointers followed by a traditional three-point play. Wieskamp made 10 of 15 shots and all eight of his free throws.

And then he called it a night.

“I was just excited to finally get there, but there’s much more left,” Wieskamp said of reaching the 30-point mark.

Scoreless stretch wasn't 'horrible set of offense'

The crowd of 15,056 got increasingly restless as Iowa started piling up empty possessions in the first half. It was such a stark contrast to the way the Hawkeyes opened the game.

But the players said the key to ending that stretch was to get a little more ball movement while basically staying the course. They knew they would break out of it eventually.

“I don’t think that it was a horrible set of offense in that 8 minutes,” Iowa guard Connor McCaffery said. “We probably had two or three turnovers that we shouldn’t have. I had to shoot one at the end of the shot clock that was bad. And maybe we had one more of those. So those five possessions sucked. But the other ones, I want to say, we were getting pretty good shots.

“It was, ‘OK, let’s not lose our minds on this. Let’s just continue to run good offense and work the ball, get the ball inside, kick it out for open 3s.’”

That’s true. CJ Fredrick missed a couple of clean looks, as did Wieskamp and Garza.

“We just kept moving the ball,” said Garza, who finished with 22 points. “They play that kind of weird defense on me where everybody’s in (the paint), so we’ve really got to move the ball side to side and when the ball sticks, there’s just no chance. It just makes it hard on us to score.”

Iowa earns some atonement, and some rest

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery got the sense in the locker room after the loss at Purdue that his team was building toward an explosive performance the next time out. He saw that play out during practices Thursday and Friday.

“They were locked in, as you would have expected them to be, both in film sessions and in practice,” he said. “We worked on a couple of things and it was no-nonsense.”

Garza noticed the same thing.

“It’s tough when you have a loss like that. I’m just proud of our guys for being able to go through that, but taking it as motivation and not letting it affect us going forward,” he said.

“Our practices were really fiery, just guys kind of wanting to get back at Purdue for that type of loss.”

The Hawkeyes will get another crack at the Boilermakers on March 3 here.

Meanwhile, the team concluded a stretch of five games in 13 days Saturday, winning three of them. The Hawkeyes will have Sunday and Monday off before heading to Indiana for a Thursday game.

The players all said some time off will be welcome. Then it’s a seven-game sprint to the finish, with Iowa currently tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings.

“We’ve had 16 straight days, roughly,” Wieskamp said. “We can get refocused, recharged for the rest of the season.”

But that doesn’t mean he personally plans on being idle for 48 hours. Wieskamp said he would rest Sunday.

“But Monday,” he said, “I’ll definitely be in getting some shots up.”

He got 15 of them up Saturday, and that worked out pretty well for the Hawkeyes.

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.

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