Fredrick returns to form, propels Hawkeyes to victory over Nittany Lions

The sophomore guard’s 18 points helped the Hawkeyes pick up their fourth-straight win.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa guard CJ Fredrick passes the ball during a men’s basketball game against Penn State on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021 at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions, 74-68. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Prior to No. 11 Iowa men’s basketball’s 74-68 victory over Penn State Sunday, sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick just hadn’t looked like himself.

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native has been dealing with a lower leg injury, and entered the Hawkeyes’ last game with a “probable” injury designation, per a team spokesman. 

Initially sustained in Iowa’s Jan. 7 game against Maryland – according to Fredrick – the injury held him out four of the Hawkeyes’ last nine games.

In four of the five contests he participated in during that stretch, he didn’t eclipse the 10-point scoring mark even once.

On Sunday afternoon, Fredrick changed that narrative, dropping 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

“He clearly looked like himself tonight, and I thought so the other night as well,” Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery said postgame. “[Fredrick made] a big three at the end of the half [against Wisconsin], played 30 minutes.”

Like his coach, Fredrick believes the Hawkeyes’ 77-62 win over the Badgers in Madison was a turning point for him, as he registered 31 minutes – the highest volume he’s played since January.

“I think that Wisconsin game, playing 31 minutes, was huge for me, just to get another real game playing big minutes,” Fredrick said. “I was able to just get in a rhythm, kind of get back to the feeling of actually playing a game. It’s a lot different than sitting and then actually trying to play 31 minutes. So, that game was huge for me. 

“I came out this evening, I felt way more comfortable,” Fredrick said. “I felt like my conditioning was a lot better. I had the right mindset. I was just reading what they were gonna do. If they were closing out hard, I was doing a shot fake and do like a one-dribble pull-up or try to find Luka or just make the right plays. Like I said, playing against Wisconsin and just getting those minutes and real-game reps really helped me, and it’s gonna help me the rest of the year.”

Fredrick put the bearings he gained in Madison to use immediately against the Nittany Lions, dropping eight points in the first five minutes of the game.

“When he’s on the floor, we’re a different team … He’s just a terrific basketball player in every sense of the word,” McCaffery said.

Since Fredrick returned from his ailment, the Hawkeyes have gone 5-2 and won four-straight games.

The Hawkeyes were 1-4 in games Fredrick played on a limited basis or missed entirely.

According to both McCaffery and Fredrick, No. 5 is still on a bit of a restricted schedule to help him recover from his ailment and ensure that he is healthy on game days.

“Like coach said, I haven’t been doing much in practice,” Fredrick said. “I’m kind of on a mileage thing. I get to like one-and-a-half or two miles at practice and I kind of shut it down. It’s just the nature of the injury I have. I’m going to have good days, bad days. I’ve been having good days and just mentally being able to fight through the pain and just kind of push forward.”

With Fredrick back in the starting lineup, the Hawkeyes are now gearing up for a brutal stretch of games ahead that features road matchups with both No. 3 Michigan Feb. 25 and No. 4 Ohio State Feb. 28.

“I was telling the team that, in these four years that I’ve been here, we haven’t had a four-game win streak in February like we are now, and that’s speaking to us as an experienced group, a mature group that’s putting things together at the right time,” senior center Luka Garza said. “Obviously, we had a stretch where we weren’t playing our best basketball, but now, having C.J. Fredrick back and healthy and looking as good as he did tonight, you know, that really helps.”

“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are really locked in, right now, to our goals … We’ve got a lot of games left, and we’ve got the biggest games left,” Garza said. “I think our main focus is winning games and improving every day.”

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