Baer leads Hawkeyes in his last Big Ten Tournament

Nicholas Baer lit up the scoreboard in the first game of his last Big Ten Tournament. His impact goes deeper than his on-court performance, however.


Lily Smith

Iowa forward Nicholas Baer (51) attempts a 3-pointer during the Iowa/Illinois Big Ten Tournament men’s basketball game in the United Center in Chicago on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

The 2019 Big Ten Tournament is Nicholas Baer’s last, and in Iowa’s first 83-62 win over Illinois on Thursday, he played like he never wanted it to end.

The lone Hawkeye senior dropped 17 points with a 5-of-6 mark from 3-point range to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

For Baer, it was just about the perfect way to start the end of his Big Ten career.

“That’s something that we want to have every night, just coming out and shooting with confidence,” Baer said. “I understand it’s my last go-around with the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, so I want to go out on a good note.”

Baer has always been known as the scrappy player. He makes the plays that no one else on the floor will make, the plays opponents usually won’t even put in the effort to make.

His consistent effort has helped him grow from a walk-on to a coveted senior the Hawkeyes don’t want to lose.

Although his game will certainly be one of the things his teammates and coaches will miss most, there’s more to it.

“We all have learned a lot from him,” point guard Connor McCaffery said. “As a veteran guy, he’s been through it all. This is his whatever Big Ten Tournament that he’s played in and he’s a great leader for us. We all love him.

“Whenever we go on a road trip, we’ll ask him, “Oh hey, what’s cool here? What was the game like when you played here this year?” And he’s like, “Well my freshman year, my sophomore year,” and he just keeps going on and on. He’s got stories. He’s just a really good person overall.”

Iowa struggled before its shellacking of Illinois, dropping four in a row and missing open shots it would make earlier in the season.

It’s only fitting the senior was the one to lead the Hawkeyes out of the dark struggles.

Iowa finished the game shooting 52 percent from the floor and 52 percent from beyond the arc. Seven different players hit a 3-pointer, but no one other than Baer drained more than two.

While the return to the win column was certainly a team effort, it’s clear the Hawkeyes leaned on Baer to get them back on track.

“I’m just thrilled for him,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Nicholas is such a special young man, and it’s so important to him that our team do well. He wants to play well, but that’s the farthest thing from his mind. He wants to perform at a level where he’s appreciated by his coaches and teammates.”

In addition to Baer, Joe Wieskamp posted an impressive performance in the first Big Ten Tournament game of his career. The freshman scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and pulled down 7 rebounds.

Wieskamp has shown his ability on the floor all season, becoming one of Iowa’s best shooters with Baer, Jordan Bohannon, and Isaiah Moss. Unsurprisingly, Baer has had a profound impact there as well.

“He’s an extremely talented player, but the thing that’s great about him is his leadership,” Wieskamp said. “He’s been the guy that I’ve always been able to go to if I have any questions out on the court. He’s always a guy in the locker room who’s kind of building up the morale. It’s consistent, day in and day out.”

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