IOWA CITY — CJ Fredrick is back. Will Joe Wieskamp be likewise?
If the two Iowa men’s basketball players play against No. 16 Penn State at 11 a.m. Saturday the way they have played so many other times this season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes (19-9, 10-7 Big Ten) have a good chance of taking down the Nittany Lions (21-7, 11-6).
Freshman guard Fredrick (10.7 points per game) has missed Iowa’s last three games with a sprained ankle. Sophomore wing Wieskamp (14.5 ppg) played in those games, but his shot has been missing. He made just 6 of 27 field goal tries and 1 of 12 3-pointers over the three games without his roommate, Fredrick.
The two things are connected.
“They’ve been guarding him really tight since I’ve been gone,” Fredrick said Friday. When I get back there will be a little more space for him to drive. I think I’ll give us a little more 3-point shooting and just a lot of intensity on defense. Just everything I’ve done when I was playing.”
Fredrick is the team’s top 3-point shooter, accuracy-wise, at 46.7 percent. Wieskamp is the Hawkeyes’ leader in 3-pointers with 50.
“(Fredrick) will be a big help for all of us,” Wieskamp said.
“I think he just spreads the floor a little more and he’s such a knockdown shooter. Guys are staying closer to him, not sagging off as much.”
Iowa won the first two of its three games with Fredrick out and Wieskamp struggling, and led at Michigan State Tuesday with five minutes left before losing, 78-70. Ryan Kriener, Bakari Evelyn, Connor McCaffery and Cordell Pemsl picked up a lot of slack.
For this team to trade firepower with Penn State, though, it’s better to have Fredrick than not. His ankle injury came in the first half at Indiana on Feb. 13. It could have been worse.
“When it happened originally,” Fredrick said, “I thought I broke my foot.
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“I feel good. The last two days are probably the best I’ve felt since the injury. I felt like I’m back to myself.
“They let me go out and practice live (Thursday) and I had no problems. I was able to cut like I usually do.”
Wieskamp has been such a steady Joe in his two seasons with the Hawkeyes that his recent shooting woes are even more pronounced.
“I don’t really see it as a slump for him,” said Fredrick. “He’s getting good looks, they’re just not going in. He’s still going to the offensive glass, he’s still playing defense, he’s still having an impact on the game.”
“I have full confidence in myself,” Wieskamp said. “My teammates and coaches all have confidence in me to take those shots, encouraging me to take those shots, and I know they’re going to fall.
“I think I do tend to put a little too much pressure on myself to perform knowing those expectations are on me. I’ve been really working on that, just zone out that pressure in my mind, just go out there and play freely and just trust in my ability.
“I know I’m a good player, I know I can shoot it really well. So I’ve just got to rely back on that. Just shut my mind off out there and just go out there and play.”
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