C.J. Fredrick day-to-day ahead of Friday’s Iowa-Illinois matchup

The sophomore guard left the team’s previous game on Jan. 21 with a lower leg injury.


Emily Wangen

Iowa basketball players (left to right) Connor McCaffery, Joe Wieskamp, Luka Garza, and C.J. Fredrick block Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu from shooting a basket during a game against the University of Illinois on Sunday, March 8, 2020, at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill. The Hawkeyes lost to the Fighting Illini, 76-78. (Emily Wangen/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Eight days is a long time between games during a college basketball season. But it may not be a long enough stretch for C.J. Fredrick to be healthy enough to return to Iowa’s lineup.

At his weekly news conference on Wednesday, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said the sharpshooting sophomore guard is day-to-day with an injury to his lower left leg heading into Friday’s top-20 showdown against Illinois.

“A lot of times coaches say day-to-day because they’re trying to duck the questions, but it’s really legitimately day-to-day with him,” McCaffery said.

Fredrick suffered his injury late in Iowa’s Jan. 17 victory over Northwestern. In the team’s last game, an 81-69 loss to Indiana on Jan. 21, Fredrick started and played 13 minutes in the first half. At halftime, he was ruled out for the rest of the game.

McCaffery said he thought Fredrick was healthy enough to play heading into the Indiana contest. But Fredrick didn’t look like himself on the court. He missed both of his field goal attempts and didn’t score before he was pulled at halftime.

RELATED: Stagnant second-half offense dooms Iowa in loss to Indiana

With Iowa’s extended stretch of off days because of game postponements, McCaffery noted Fredrick has had time to work with the medical staff in the training room. Whether to work the Cincinnati, Ohio, native back into the lineup as soon as possible, or wait until he can step back into his full role, remains a question which McCaffery is trying to answer.

“That always is the most difficult decision for a coach, and I typically just rely on my medical staff in situations like that,” McCaffery said. “Can he go? Can he give it a shot? If he waits longer, will that really help his long-term benefit, which will obviously help our long-term benefit as a program, as a team.

“I would say this: It’s possible that it could be something that lingers, but our hope is that we can get rid of it.”

Fredrick ranks fourth on the team averaging 9.1 points per game this season. Last year as a freshman, he led the Big Ten in 3-point percentage (46.1 percent).

Without Fredrick on the court in the second half against Indiana, Iowa struggled to shoot the ball, particularly from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes shot 9-of-34 from the field in the final 20 minutes of the game, and 1-of-10 from deep. The shooting threat that he is, Fredrick provides Iowa with floor spacing, and defenders can’t clamp onto center Luka Garza in the post or clog the lanes to the basket as much as they do when he’s off the court.

Freshman forward Keegan Murray filled in as a member of the starting five in Fredrick’s absence. In a corresponding move, starter Connor McCaffery switched from playing power forward to shooting guard.

If Fredrick cannot play against Illinois, that lineup combination is a possibility again.

“Keegan can step in and fill that role nicely,” Connor McCaffery said. “He’s playing really well… When it comes to the lineup, I’ll have to adjust to who I’m guarding and maybe be a little bit more aggressive here and there. Because if C.J. is out, we lose another offensive weapon. I think we’ll adjust just fine.”

Iowa is used to having to adjust to playing without its key players, Fredrick included.

Last season, he missed six full games and two second halves because of various injuries. Starting point guard Jordan Bohannon also missed all but 10 games a year ago because of hip surgery.

This season, Connor McCaffery left Iowa’s Jan. 2 victory over Rutgers, and Murray stepped up and contributed down the stretch.

Fredrick playing Friday would provide No. 7 Iowa with a boost against its rival, No. 19 Illinois. But if he can’t go, Murray, Joe Toussaint, and other bench players will need to take on a larger role once again.

“[Fredrick] is a guy who wants to be out there as bad as anybody,” Garza said. “I know it’s killing him that he wasn’t able to play in the second half against Indiana… It would be awesome to have one of the best shooters in the country out there. But if we don’t, we’re a deep team. We have a lot of guys who are ready to step up into that moment.

“Our focus is for him to get back healthy whenever he can and not to rush it.”

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