Iowa men’s basketball overcomes Northwestern, shuffled schedule

The Hawkeyes’ schedule underwent a number of changes over the last 10 days, but that didn’t stop them from picking up a 96-73 win against the Wildcats in Evanston.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffery adjusts his mask during a timeout during the first Iowa men’s basketball game of the season against the North Carolina Central Eagles at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Eagles 97-67.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

The last 10 days have been anything but normal for Iowa men’s basketball, as the Hawkeyes have seen their schedule change in a number of ways.

Originally, the Hawkeyes were slated to play Northwestern Jan. 18. The game was then moved to Jan. 17 and tipoff was set for 8 p.m. Iowa’s matchup with the Wildcats was finally cemented in the schedule for Jan. 17 at 11 a.m.

The game was moved from Sunday night to Sunday morning to fill a hole in CBS’ broadcast schedule produced by the postponement of Michigan State’s matchup with Indiana. The game was postponed because the Spartans are currently in a battle to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their program.

So, with a national audience watching, the Hawkeyes went to work, defeating Northwestern in blowout fashion, 96-73.

“It feels great [to win on a national stage],” sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick said postgame. “You know, coach was saying, ‘You can’t take any games for granted.’ You know, we had one canceled, but it’s on to the next. This team just has a great mindset about every game. We were really happy about this opportunity to play today.”

Fredrick was one of five Hawkeyes to score in double figures Sunday. In total, 14 Hawkeyes saw action against Northwestern as Iowa shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Prior to their victory over the Wildcats, the Hawkeyes felt the effects of Michigan State’s COVID-19 outbreak. Iowa’s matchup with the Spartans – scheduled for Jan. 14 – was mutually postponed by both schools in an effort to preserve the health, safety, and wellness of student-athletes, coaches, and staff.

“It was definitely an odd week,” junior forward Joe Wieskamp said. “We were preparing for a game and it got canceled. As coach has always said, it’s on to the next one. You can’t dwell on that. You can’t think about that. Those things are out of your control. You got to control the controllables, and that’s what we try to do. Just move onto to the next one. Focus on Northwestern and realize that, throughout the season, things like that can pop up. So, you got to be able to adapt. You can’t let it affect you.”

Shortly after Wieskamp left the postgame press conference podium, another schedule change popped up for the Hawkeyes. Their matchup with Nebraska – scheduled for Jan. 24 – was postponed as the Cornhuskers continue to grapple with the presence of COVID-19 among their Tier 1 personnel.

Per a release, Tier 1 encompasses student-athletes, coaches, and any staff member whose job requires close contact on a regular basis. Cornhusker head coach Fred Hoiberg and seven of his players are currently in mandatory quarantine or self-isolation. Four additional members of Nebraska’s staff are in self-isolation or quarantine, putting the Cornhuskers in the Red/Red threshold of the Big Ten Conference’s medical guidelines for team positivity rate and population positivity rate.

Crossing the Red/Red threshold forces the Cornhuskers to pause team activities for a minimum of seven days, thus extending their activities pause past their Jan. 24 date with Iowa.

Despite now having two games postponed, the Hawkeyes still sit atop the Big Ten Conference standings – tied with Michigan for first place. But, head coach Fran McCaffery hasn’t let standings interfere with his team’s pursuit of its goals.

“I really don’t pay much attention to the standings,” McCaffery said. “We’re about a third of the way through [the season]. We have too many really good teams coming up. There’s going to be some juggling of the schedule as we talked about. At the end of the day, does it really matter who’s in first place in the middle of January? I don’t think it does. At the same time, [the players] recognize it. They’ve worked for it. They’ve earned it, that’s great. I don’t want to diminish it because anytime I get the opportunity to praise my guys and compliment them on the hard work and the sacrifices that they’ve made to get here, I want to emphasize that. But, it’s not something that I would address with them. You know where we are in the standings, who’s where – we’re just trying to get ready for Indiana.”

Iowa returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena Jan. 21 for a matchup with the Hoosiers at 8 p.m. The game will air on the Fox Sports 1.

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