CJ Fredrick returns to Iowa's starting lineup, and that's good news for Joe Wieskamp
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The No. 17 Iowa men’s basketball team will be back at full strength Saturday when it hosts Penn State in a pivotal Big Ten Conference matchup.
Or at least as close to full strength as this year’s squad can truly be.
Shooting guard CJ Fredrick is expected to be in the starting lineup after missing three games with a sprained right ankle. That news is especially good for fellow guard — and roommate — Joe Wieskamp, who made only 6 of 27 shots in those games while facing added defensive pressure.
As for Luka Garza’s mild foot injury, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery dismissed any notion that it will limit his star center.
“He’ll be fine for the game. I’m not worried about it,” McCaffery said of Garza, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 23.6 points per game.
Fredrick, a freshman who is making 46.7% of his 3-point shots, sprained the ankle on a freak play in a loss on Feb. 13 at Indiana. He was starting a drive to the basket when his right leg gave out and he felt the ligaments pop.
“I’ve been in a lot of pain before, but I was in some serious pain at Indiana,” Fredrick said Friday in his first public comments since the injury.
The ankle became swollen and discolored, Fredrick said. But the damage was relegated to the lower ankle and he was able to slowly heal. The Hawkeyes (19-9, 10-7 Big Ten) won two of the three games without him.
On Thursday, Fredrick said he went through a live practice, was able to cut effectively and woke up Friday pain-free. That was a sign that he was back at 100%.
Fredrick watched as Wieskamp went 1-for-12 from the 3-point arc in his three-game absence. He knew his return would help his friend.
“I’ll be able to space the floor a little bit more, for guys like Joe,” Fredrick said. “They’ve been guarding him really tight since I’ve been gone. So I think when I get back there, there’ll be a little more space for him to drive.”
Fredrick’s return also allows McCaffery to reinstall his four-guard starting lineup against a No. 14 Penn State team that also frequently uses smaller, quicker players. Fredrick is an intense defender as well as a gifted shooter.
Wieskamp, Iowa’s second-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game, doesn’t think he’s been in a slump and said he has “full confidence” that he’ll turn things around Saturday.
But he also realizes what having Fredrick on the court with him will mean.
“Knowing that he’s a knockdown shooter, guys are staying closer to him, not sagging off as much,” Wieskamp said. “With our bigger lineup, sometimes the paint’s a little more clogged off. It’s harder to get to the rim.”
Tipoff is at 11 a.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tickets are sold out. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.