No. 15 Hawkeyes set for rematch with Spartans

Following a postponement, just 11 days separate Iowa’s first and second matchups with Michigan State this season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp walks to the bench during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 79-66.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Ten days ago, No. 15 Iowa men’s basketball faced Michigan State for the first time in the 2020-21 season. Now, the Hawkeyes are preparing to play the Spartans again this Saturday — just 11 days after the first matchup.

While not much time has passed between the first and second contests between the two teams, a lot has changed — especially for the Hawkeyes.

Prior to their Feb. 2 date with Michigan State, Iowa was the No. 8 team in the country according to the AP Top 25 Poll.

The Hawkeyes had dropped two-straight games before picking up an 84-78 win over the Spartans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Since then, Iowa’s two-game skid turned into a full-on slide, as the Hawkeyes would lose four times in a six-game stretch, dropping them to No. 15 in the AP poll.

The Hawkeyes, however, seem to have found new life Wednesday night as sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick returned to head coach Fran McCaffery’s starting lineup after missing three games with a lower leg injury.

RELATED: Fredrick’s return to action propels Hawkeyes to win over Rutgers

While Fredrick only managed three assists, two rebounds, and zero points in 17 minutes of action, it was clear the Cincinnati, Ohio, native made a large impact in his return to the floor.

Following Iowa’s 79-66 win over Rutgers Wednesday, guard Joe Wieskamp said just having Fredrick on the court helped him amass a 26-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Center Luka Garza shared that sentiment, noting how much the Hawkeyes missed Fredrick while he was out.

Fredrick only played 12 minutes in Iowa’s first game against Michigan State as he sat out the second half after aggravating his lower leg injury.

As of Wednesday night, Fredrick said he intends to play in East Lansing on Saturday.

Despite all that’s changed recently for the Hawkeyes, McCaffery still believes he knows what to expect from the Spartans this weekend.

“I think, most importantly, we just played them, so it’s not like you’re going to have to really dive deep into a game plan,” McCafery said. “We’ll make a few adjustments, but [the players] know personnel, they know Michigan State. Michigan State knows us. We know we’re going to get a real physical, defensive effort from them. We have to kind of play like we played [Wednesday night], move it, share it, compete, and continue to focus and concentrate on the things that we do well.”

Three years of Big Ten play have taught Wieskamp how to deal with physical teams like Michigan State, and he feels like he’s now equipped to handle anything his opposition throws at him.

“It’s something that you don’t really know until you experience it,” Wieskamp said. “I think, this being my third year, I’ve gone through it. Last season was tough for me, for stretches, because [the teams] were so physical with me, and I think that, at times, I didn’t know how to react to it. I think, just going through that, allowed me to learn so much. It’s allowed me to improve a lot as a player. Just being able to play with that physicality and not let that bother me or disrupt my rhythm and what I’m trying to do.”

Tipoff between the Hawkeyes and Spartans is scheduled for 1:37 p.m. and the game will air on FOX.