EVANSTON, Ill. — There was no debate involving Iowa Tuesday night. The Iowa men’s basketball team, anyway.
The issue of whether the Hawkeyes have other productive players besides Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp wasn’t open for argument at Welsh-Ryan Arena in the Hawkeyes’ 75-62 win at Northwestern.
That duo, which had averaged a combined 47.2 points per Big Ten game coming in here, had but 14 with 11:23 left in this game. However, their team was still ahead 51-46 thanks to good performances by Bakari Evelyn, Ryan Kriener, Connor McCaffery, Cordell Pemsl ... and CJ Fredrick.
Fredrick was back after missing the last two games because of a stress reaction in his left foot. The freshman guard played like he hadn’t lost a step, accumulating 11 points, five assists and two steals. He played 31 minutes.
“Yesterday (in practice) I was like ‘Coach, I’m feeling good, how about I try a segment? Then I started and played 31.”
Fredrick missed his first two 3-pointers, but hit his next three tries from long range.
“It really helps to have another sniper out there on the perimeter,” Kriener said.
“He gives you, obviously, another 3-point shooter,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “But it’s so much more than that. You look at five assists. He’s a post feeder, he moves the ball, he’s a very intelligent defender, he’s always in the right place.
“He’s a baller.”
There are no guarantees Fredrick can play 31 minutes or even a portion of that Friday when Iowa (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) hosts No. 19 Michigan. But things sure look rosier than they did the last week-and-a-half when he was in a walking boot.
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“If I was continuing to have pain, they were going to have to shut me down,” Fredrick said, “but I felt better.
“I hate not playing, especially with a group of guys like this.”
Oh, Garza and Wieskamp influenced matters down the stretch, and then some. Wieskamp had seven points in the last 6:03. After sitting out about eight minutes of the second half following his third foul, Garza peeled off seven points in 59 seconds to vault Iowa’s advantage from 51-46 to 58-46.
He finished with 27 in 24 minutes, adding to his ever-growing 2019-20 success story.
“I have ultimate confidence in my teammates that they’re going to help me out,” Garza said, “especially when I get in foul trouble. They did a great job. When I was out there I just tried to help them as much as I could.”
Northwestern (6-10, 1-5) hung in for three-fourths of a game, but was never closer than eight points in the last 10 minutes.
Kriener had 10 points. McCaffery had a team-high seven rebounds. Evelyn had eight points and seven assists, giving him 23 and 11 over his two games in Cook County this season. He also shined in Iowa’s win over Cincinnati in Chicago on Dec. 21.
“Hopefully the Big Ten tournament’s in Chicago,” Evelyn said. When told it was in Indianapolis, he said “Close enough.”
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