Iowa set up for physical matchup against newly-ranked Rutgers

Iowa will face Rutgers in a physical battle for the first time since the Scarlet Knights earned their top-25 ranking.


Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery reacts to a call during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln on Tuesday, January 7th. The Hawkeyes fell to the Huskers 76-70.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

For the first time in 41 years, the Rutgers men’s basketball team has found its way into the AP Top 25.

When unranked last year, the Scarlet Knights toppled Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Now, their first game since earning their ranking comes against a Hawkeye squad that has won three in a row.

No. 19 Iowa and No. 24 Rutgers will tip off at 8 p.m. Wednesday, ushering in a new era of Rutgers basketball.

It sets up a perfect matchup for a Hawkeye team that utilizes its swagger and mental toughness whenever it takes the floor.

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“They don’t seem to get too up or too down,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said about his team. “They recognize the level of competition that was before them. They could look at the schedule before the season and see that, but it’s a group that’s performed well on the road, for the most part.”

Iowa’s confidence showed in its 90-83 victory over Michigan on Jan. 17.

While the game got chippy at times and the Hawkeyes seemed to get under the skin of their opponents — as evidenced by Juwan Howard’s technical foul — they backed everything up on the floor.

Even when the Wolverines took a seven-point lead in the second half, Iowa fought back to flip the score around on Michigan.

The Hawkeyes didn’t let the moment or environment get to them.

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“We all love playing with emotion, and we’re all really competitive.,” Iowa guard CJ Fredrick said. “We’re not going to let anybody come into our home court and punk us.”

This matchup poses something the Hawkeyes haven’t seen in conference play yet.

Wednesday’s game will feature Iowa’s Big Ten-leading offense against a Rutgers defense that paces the conference.

The Hawkeyes average 79.9 points per game and have scored at least 75 points in four of their seven Big Ten games this season, breaking 90 in their last contest.

Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights allow only 58.7 points a game and haven’t allowed a team to sniff 60 points in their last three games.

While it has already beaten Maryland — which ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense — the matchup will serve as a good litmus test for Iowa as it deals with the best of the best.

“They’re a very aggressive team defensively,” Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp said. “They’re going to be a team that’s going to be up in our space, bumping us off cuts, not letting an easy pass. So, we’re going to have to be physical right back with them.”

That physicality bodes well for Iowa. Luka Garza saw it as recently as last week.

With Michigan big man Jon Teske fighting alongside Garza in the paint, the Hawkeye junior drew 12 fouls en route to dropping 33 points

Rutgers’ Myles Johnson poses another threat down low. At 6’10” and 255 pounds, Johnson puts up 9.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game.

It will be up to Iowa to assert its own physicality to leave Carver-Hawkeye with a victory once again.

“We’re going to try to set the pace, set the tone, play at our pace and our speed and how we want to play,” Garza said. “Get the ball to where we want to get it to without letting them frustrate us.”