IOWA CITY — In a quirk of the schedule, the Iowa basketball team plays only one home game between Thanksgiving and Christmas this season.
Apparently, Joe Wieskamp and his teammates decided they’d better make it a good one.
Wieskamp got the Hawkeyes off to a blazing start and tossed in a season-high 23 points, and the Hawkeyes turned in one of their best defensive efforts of the season Monday night in rolling to a 72-52 victory over Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Wieskamp, who has played superb defense much of the time this season while enduring some offensive struggles, put it all together to help the Hawkeyes (7-3) even their Big Ten record at 1-1 heading into another arduous road excursion Thursday night at Iowa State.
“The thing that was impressive to me about Joe tonight was he played that kind of defense and then he played that kind of offense,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “That’s what the great ones do.’’
Junior center Luka Garza, who followed his 44-point outburst at Michigan with a solid 21-point, 10-rebound effort, said he couldn’t have been happier for his sophomore teammate.
“He holds himself to an extremely high standard, like myself, and when you go through a couple of bad games …’’ Garza said. “To us, he’s doing a really good job but he pushes himself hard and I’m so glad to see him in that rhythm.’’
Wieskamp fired in 11 points even before the first television timeout but he saved the play of the night for the second half.
Fittingly, it involved both great offense and great defense.
Minnesota had whittled a 17-point Iowa lead to 10 (55-45) and had the ball back. But Wieskamp skied to block a perimeter shot by the Golden Gophers’ Tre Williams, grabbed the ball and sprinted to the other end of the court for a resounding two-hand dunk that briefly left him hanging precariously from the rim.
“I lost my grip on the rim a little bit so I just hung there for dear life for a second,’’ Wieskamp said with a grin.
McCaffery sort of liked that play, too.
“They made a run at us and I thought we handled that really well,’’ McCaffery said. “I thought Wieskamp’s block and run-out was huge at that point.’’
Garza flipped in a short hook shot after that, then fired in a 3-pointer and the Hawkeyes were off and running again.
As solid as the offense was at times, the defense was better. Just three days after giving up 103 points in a loss at Michigan, the Hawkeyes held Minnesota to a season-low point total.
“I just think we stayed down in our stance, we stayed in the gaps and we finished the possession,’’ McCaffery said.
The perimeter defense was especially suffocating. While center Daniel Oturu hurt the Hawkeyes at times, the Gophers’ three starting guards combined to make just 3 of 29 shots.
Gabe Kalscheur, who had Wieskamp in his face much of the night, was 0-for-10.
“They’re a very, very good offensive team and defensively, they obviously stepped it up tonight,’’ Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said of the Hawkeyes.
Pitino said the loss wasn’t completely the fault of his misfiring guard trio.
“But when you go 3 for 29 and then you have 15 turnovers … We were completely out of rhythm,’’ he said.
In addition to the scoring of Wieskamp and Garza, Iowa also got 10 points from CJ Fredrick.
Senior guard Jordan Bohannon contributed in other ways. He did not score but he handed out 10 assists and did not have a single turnover.
“I think that’s the first game I’ve ever had like that,’’ Bohannon said of the disparity between points and assists. “I just wanted to load up Joe and CJ and get them going. Luka’s not going to score 44 every night.’’
Oturu, who is second in the Big Ten in scoring behind Garza, made his first nine shots and finished with 22 points while adding 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. But he also committed eight turnovers. He was whistled for traveling five times in the second half.
GARZA HONORED: Garza was honored prior to the game for scoring the 1,000th point of his college career on Friday against Michigan. He became the 49th Hawkeye to reach that plateau.
Garza also was named Monday as the Big Ten player of the week after averaging 33.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games last week. He is the first Hawkeye to win the award since Peter Jok in 2016. Garza’s 44 points against Michigan are the most by a Big Ten player since Glenn Robinson of Purdue had a 44-point game in 1994.
Iowa 72, Minnesota 52
MINNESOTA (4-5) — Demir 5-10 1-1 13, Oturu 10-11 1-3 22, Kalscheur 0-10 0-0 0, Willis 2-9 2-2 8, Carr 1-10 0-0 2, Ihnen 0-0 0-0 0, Omersa 1-2 0-0 2, Hurt 1-2 0-2 3, Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Greenlee 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-57 4-8 52.
IOWA (7-3) — Garza 8-17 4-5 21, Bohannon 0-4 0-0 0, Fredrick 4-7 0-1 10, Wieskamp 8-15 2-2 23, C.McCaffery 2-7 2-2 8, Kriener 3-7 0-0 6, Till 0-0 0-0 0, Pemsl 0-0 1-2 1, Evelyn 0-0 0-0 0, Toussaint 1-4 1-2 3. Totals 26-61 10-14 72.
Halftime — Iowa 37-29. 3-point goals — Minnesota 6-25 (Demir 2-3, Willis 2-7, Hurt 1-1, Oturu 1-1, Williams 0-1, Carr 0-4, Kalscheur 0-8), Iowa 10-21 (Wieskamp 5-7, Fredrick 2-4, C. McCaffery 2-4, Garza 1-2, Kriener 0-2, Bohannon 0-2). Fouled out — none. Rebounds—Minnesota 31 (Oturu 12), Iowa 36 (Garza 10). Assists — Minnesota 13 (Carr 7), Iowa 20 (Bohannon 10). Total fouls — Minnesota 14, Iowa 13.
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