PISCATAWAY, N.J. — If the Iowa men’s basketball team didn’t stop for Powerball tickets on its way out of New Jersey Saturday night, it wasn’t thinking clearly.
Clear thinking clearly was no problem for the Hawkeyes in the last 3.2 seconds of their 71-69 win at Rutgers Saturday. Needing to go the length of the court to score to win or send the game to overtime, Connor McCaffery’s inbounds pass was a long baseball-type throw.
Nicholas Baer was the target. He tangled with two Scarlet Knights, and tipped the ball to the left corner. Freshman guard Joe Wieskamp beat teammate Isaish Moss to the ball. Moss smartly slammed on the brakes to give Wieskamp a little space, and Wieskamp launched a deep 3-pointer over 7-footer Shaquille Doorson. It caromed off the top left side of the backboard and somehow went through the basket with 0.2 seconds left.
“We were trying to get it to Nicholas at the top of the key,” Wieskamp said in a postgame interview on the Hawkeye Radio Network’s broadcast of the game. “We had multiple options, Jordan (Bohannon), Isaiah, myself. Luckily, the ball kind of tipped my way. I was able to pick it up and get a shot off in time.
“To be honest, it was all kind of a blur. I just threw it up and luckily it went in.”
The win capped an incredible week for the Hawkeyes, who improved to 20-5 overall and 9-5 in the Big Ten. Six days earlier in Iowa City, Bohannon swished a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left to cap Iowa’s 80-79 victory over Northwestern in which they trailed by 11 points with 2:09 left.
This almost was a late-game gut-punch for Iowa. Rutgers’ Geo Baker made a 3-pointer that caromed off the front of the rim, bounced off the backboard, and went in for a 69-68 lead immediately before the Hawkeyes’ final possession.
“I don’t even know what to say,” dejected Rutgers Coach Steve Pikiell said.
“Our guys played their tails off against one of the best teams in America.”
This game was a 40-minute grind. Iowa trailed 33-32 at halftime, spending most of the first half behind. Bohannon made a 24-foot bailout 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 6:07 left to give the Hawkeyes a 59-57 lead, and they didn’t trail again until Baker’s shot with :03.2 remaining.
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“You’ve got to give Rutgers credit for Baker making a huge shot,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
Then Wieskamp made his.
“You just knew as soon as Joe picked it up we had a real good chance that sucker was going to go in, and it went in,” McCaffery said. “What can you say about him? He’s just an amazing money player.”
The win was Iowa’s fourth-straight. For the third-consecutive game, Bohannon had a big second half. He scored 15 of his game-high 18 points in the half, but did miss the front end of a double-bonus free throw situation with :26 left that allowed Baker’s last shot to be for the lead instead of a tie.
Moss had 17 points, 13 in the first half when most of his teammates weren’t in sync offensively against Rutgers’ physical defense.
Ron Harper Jr., had a career-high 16 points for Rutgers. Baker had 13 points, 6 assists and a career-high 5 steals that accounted for one-third of Iowa’s 15 turnovers.
Tyler Cook had 12 points and 4 assists for the Hawkeyes. Wieskamp had 9 points. He made one 3-pointer. It was kind of big.
Iowa improved to 4-3 in Big Ten road games.
“We have a team that has the ability and understanding of how to play on the road and not get rattled,” McCaffery said. “We’re not perfect, but we made the plays we had to make and we didn’t rattle.”
Iowa comes home to play Maryland (10-5 in the Big Ten) Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“We’ll enjoy the rest of the night,” McCaffery said, “and go to work tomorrow.”