Seniors lead Iowa into Ohio State matchup

Senior leadership has played a key role for Iowa basketball this season, and it will again against Ohio State.


Iowa forward Ryan Kriener goes in for the shot while Nebraska Guard Kevin Cross attempts to block during a men’s basketball game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Huskers at Carver-Hawkeye arena on Saturday, February 8, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskers 96-72.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

A lot of things have gone wrong for Iowa basketball this season.

First it was Jack Nunge’s torn ACL in the fifth game that took an integral part of the team away for almost the entire season. Then, Jordan Bohannon joined him on the sidelines after shutting it down for the season because of his hip.

Recently, Cordell Pemsl served a one-game suspension after being arrested for driving with a suspended license, while CJ Fredrick has been in and out of the lineup after dealing with multiple injuries.

Still, the Hawkeyes hold an 18-8 record, including a 9-6 mark in Big Ten play.  

A lot of that success can be attributed to the team’s seniors. 

With five regular-season games remaining, they’ll have a chance to show how they can handle adversity again when they take on Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday. 

“You’ve got to be able to find some consistency and really try to be a rock and a leader for the team,” Iowa forward Ryan Kriener said. “When things go wrong, you got to be ready to brace for what comes ahead. When the waves get big in the boat, you’ve got to be able to bunker down the hatches and make it through the storm.”

Fredrick’s absence from Iowa’s lineup has been a big hole since he left the Hawkeyes’ loss to Indiana with an ankle injury on Feb. 13.

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Iowa still managed to pick up a comeback win on the road against Minnesota, 58-55, just three days later.

Again, the players with at least four years of college basketball experience — such as Kriener, Bakari Evelyn, and Cordell Pemsl — helped the Hawkeyes end the game on an 11-0 run.

“You need experience in this league,” Iowa center Luka Garza said. “When you have guys out there who are really experienced and know the right plays to make in different situation, it definitely helps.”

With the Big Ten race as tight as it is this season, it also helps having a roster with players that have been through the highs and lows of big-time college basketball.

“They’ve definitely done a great job,” Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp said. “They’re guys who have been around the program for so long. They’ve been through losing seasons. They’ve been through a winning season like we had last year.”

The Hawkeyes will need more than experience when it comes to hosting Ohio State, however.

Just as Minnesota has Daniel Oturu in the frontcourt, Ohio State’s lineup features Kaleb Wesson.

Wesson leads the Buckeyes with 14.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound forward also puts up 1.1 blocks per game, which pairs well with an Ohio State defense that paces the conference in scoring defense, giving up only 61.4 points a game.

“He’s got a real good feel for how to play the game,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “When you’re that big with that kind of a length and you can score in a variety of ways and move the way he does, those guys are difficult to handle.”