Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa basketball's problem is depth, not shooting from deep

Big Ten games piling up for a team with a shrinking rotation

Nebraska guard Dachon Burke Jr. (11) celebrates next to Iowa's Connor McCaffery (30) late in the Huskers' 76-70 basketba
Nebraska guard Dachon Burke Jr. (11) celebrates next to Iowa's Connor McCaffery (30) late in the Huskers' 76-70 basketball win over the Hawkeyes Tuesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb. (Francis Gardler/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

LINCOLN, Neb. — Jordan Bohannon’s not coming back this season, and CJ Fredrick’s status is a great unknown.

You’re talking shooters with those two. Bohannon, a senior out for the rest of the season after hip surgery, is one of the premier 3-point threats in Iowa men’s basketball history. Fredrick is a redshirt freshman who hasn’t played like a rookie this season, and has made half of his 3-pointers.

Fredrick sat out Iowa’s 76-70 loss at Nebraska Tuesday night with a stress reaction in his left foot that had him in a walking cast. That doesn’t bode well for a swift return, and the games keep piling up for Iowa (10-5, 1-3 Big Ten), with the next one at home Friday against No. 12 Maryland.

“I don’t know that I can expect anything,” Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said after the game regarding Fredrick.

“I will not put him out there under any risk. ... Right now he’s still day-to-day. Until (doctors and trainers) tell me otherwise, that’s how we’ll go with it.”

Shooting was what shot down the 8.5-point favorites here. Iowa was a dreadful 4-of-33 from 3-point range, unthinkably bad for a team that had made at least 10 3s in four of its last five games and made 41.9 percent of them in that stretch.

“I always tell my guys if they’re open, shoot the ball,” McCaffery said. “I want complete confidence.”

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Joe Wieskamp missed a pair of 3s on Iowa’s first possession, setting a tone he and his teammates never reversed. Wieskamp was 1-of-10 from 3-point distance. To his credit, he found enough other ways to score to get 21 points.

But if the Hawkeyes had just gone 6-for-33 or 7-for-33 ... If Wieskamp had just gone 3-for-10 or 4-for-10 ...

“I’ve never seen him go 1-for-10 in practice or anything,” teammate Luka Garza said. “I’m not really worried about it.”

The reason all those 3-pointers were open — and most were wide-open — is because Nebraska decided it was going to double-team and triple-team Garza from start to finish.

“We felt our only chance of winning the game was to sit two or three bodies in the paint at all times and then close out to the shooters,” Nebraska Coach Fred Hoiberg said, “and we did a good job at that.”

Given Garza had averaged 33 points in Iowa’s first three conference games, it was a gamble worth taking for Hoiberg. It worked.

Wieskamp couldn’t make 3s. Joe Toussaint was 0-for-5. Bakari Evelyn and Ryan Kriener were 0-for-3. Garza shot four himself, missed them all.

“If teams are going to play us like that,” Garza said, “it’s not often we’ll shoot badly like we did today. We’re going to kill teams like that, especially with Joe Wieskamp.”

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“I had good looks,” Wieskamp said. “They just weren’t falling tonight. I never shot that bad in my life.”

There’s no guarantee Fredrick would have done any better. But his absence on top of the season-ending injuries and illnesses to Jack Nunge, Bohannon and Patrick McCaffery are taking a toll.

Toussaint played 35 minutes Tuesday, had four turnovers to four assists, and got exploited at times defensively. But the freshman also had 14 points and is looking more and more like a recruiting coup for McCaffery with his skills and speed, along with the edge and energy he brings.

Still, he’s a first-year freshman. Mistakes will be made, and sometimes in critical moments.

If Fredrick can’t come back soon or at all, Toussaint gets a baptism under fire this winter. Maybe long-term, it will be a great thing for Iowa’s program to have him play big minutes and gain big experience. Short-term, it sure would be better if Fredrick comes back to share some of the load.

“Everybody has injuries,” McCaffery said. “Everybody has sicknesses. Everybody has tough stretches where it’s a lot of road games and a lot of travel. We have other guys. We have to play better than we played tonight. Give credit and respect to our opponent, but we didn’t play as well as we’ve been playing.

“I’m not going to put all that on the fact that CJ Fredrick was hurt. Because it wasn’t like 4-on-5. Somebody else was playing. We’ve got to play better.”

McCaffery and Garza are right about Wieskamp. His shooting night was an aberration. The guy’s a horse who is averaging 19.5 points over the last four games and who outclasses a lot of the players he goes up against.

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Without Fredrick, though, Iowa has just eight scholarship players. That includes some special talents, but is eight enough?

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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