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Iowa's CJ Fredrick had injury setback, will continue to be in and out of lineup

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa guard CJ Fredrick felt pain in the two days after returning to the lineup against Rutgers last week, and his lower-leg injury remains problematic, coach Fran McCaffery told reporters Tuesday.

Fredrick played 17 minutes in Iowa’s home win over Rutgers last Wednesday, but wasn’t able to take to the court in Saturday’s victory at Michigan State.

“We're not going to run him out there (when he’s in pain). It's just not fair,” McCaffery said of Fredrick.

“He's been really diligent with his rehab and treatment and being in the training room, and hopefully we'll get this thing figured out.”

Fredrick has missed four entire games and the second halves of two others since first feeling pain in his lower left leg Jan. 7 in a game against Maryland. He said after the Rutgers game that he felt fine and was hopeful that he could back it up by playing three days later against the Spartans. He went through Iowa’s first round of warm-ups at the Breslin Center, but remained in the locker room afterward, before walking to the bench in a sweatsuit just ahead of tip-off.

No. 14 Iowa (15-6, 9-5 Big Ten Conference) plays at No. 21 Wisconsin (15-7, 9-6) at 6 p.m. Thursday in a crucial game in the league standings. In Fredrick’s place, freshman forward Keegan Murray has gotten his first four starts.

Keegan Murray started Wednesday's game against Rutgers on the Iowa bench before entering to attempt this shot. On Saturday, the freshman forward was in the Hawkeye starting lineup at Michigan State, replacing the injured CJ Fredrick. Murray's role has been impacted by Fredrick's on-again, off-again status, but he said Tuesday the key is just to stay mentally in tune with whatever is needed.

“Just mentally, I have to be there every game,” Murray said of his varying roles.

“CJ, me and him have been supportive of each other no matter what the circumstance is. Because he kind of took me under his wing when I first got here. So he’s been like a brother to me.”

Fran McCaffery certain Nebraska game will be made up ... but when? 

Iowa has five scheduled Big Ten games remaining and a home contest against Nebraska that needs to be made up soon. McCaffery said he’s certain that the Big Ten will reschedule the meeting with the Cornhuskers, although he’s waiting to learn when.

Nebraska had to postpone the original game last month because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Cornhuskers have been playing frequently since and are scheduled to play at Maryland on back-to-back nights to try to get all 20 league contests in. Iowa has six days open on its schedule next week, between a Sunday home game against Penn State and a trip to Ohio State the following Sunday.

But McCaffery said it may not be that easy for Nebraska.

“There could be other changes, as well, in terms of ‘You're playing this day instead of that day.’ We're just going to have to roll with it,” he said.

Luka Garza has impressive scoring string snapped, but savors big win most of all

Luka Garza had scored 10 points or more in 44 consecutive games until Saturday. Iowa’s all-American center had only eight in an 88-58 win at Michigan State.

Was he upset to see that string broken?

“It wasn’t really important to me. I didn’t really know that it was that long,” Garza said Tuesday. “It was more important that we won the game.”

Profile:Iowa's Luka Garza is an unlikely college basketball star with the help of grueling workouts

Garza, as is his custom, dissected what the Spartans did to contain him. He spoke of field goals and free throws that he should have made. But, ultimately, he was happy for what his team achieved in a building where the Hawkeyes had lost 21 of their previous 22 trips. The margin of victory was the most by a team visiting the Breslin Center in Tom Izzo’s 26 seasons as Michigan State coach.

Garza scored 27 points against Michigan State in a Feb. 2 home win. He saw the Spartans adjust for the rematch.

“They made a real focus to kind of shut me out. So I moved the ball as much as I could to try to get other guys involved,” Garza said.

“When I look back at my career, being able to beat Michigan State by 30 in their place is something I’m going to remember over having 26 points against whoever. … It was a lot of fun just to be out there and play so together.”

Garza still leads the nation in scoring at 24.5 points per game. Saturday was a blip for him — and a blowout for his team.

Hawkeyes on pace to be most turnover-free team in school history

In both games against the Spartans, Iowa committed only five turnovers. The Hawkeyes scored a combined 172 points. It was a pair of remarkable efforts by an experienced team that likes to play at a fast pace.

McCaffery was asked to explain how difficult the achievement was, and what it took to make it happen.

“We don't have any bad ball-handlers. We don't have anybody who doesn't understand the game and what the game plan is,” he said.

“So understanding the value of the basketball is something that we stress, but I'm not going to take credit for it. I'm going to tell you that we have smart, talented guys that truly understand that and understand the impact that that has on a team's ability to win.”

The Hawkeyes are averaging 9.4 turnovers per game, on pace to break the single-season record of 10.3 in 2015-16. They are first in the nation in turnovers per offensive play (11.1%). That figure is key to keeping opposing teams from getting out in transition, as well. It's a great way to remain in every contest.

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.