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Weiskamp leads Iowa over Northwestern 73-63

Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp dunks against Northwestern during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game last Wednesday in Evanston, Ill.

IOWA CITY — The Big Ten Network sent out a tweet Saturday morning asking which heralded freshman in the conference you would build your men’s basketball program around.

Indiana’s Romeo Langford, Maryland’s Jalen Smith, Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis and Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu were the four choices.

They are all logical options.

Langford is pouring in nearly 19 points per game. Smith is averaging 12.3 points and 7 rebounds per contest and made a game-winner against Nebraska. Brazdeikis has been stellar for the undefeated Wolverines. Dosunmu is a dynamic guard coming off a 23-point outing against Michigan.

To the dismay of some Iowa fans, Joe Wieskamp was not on the list.

The freshman does not generate the buzz around the league or on a national scale yet like those mentioned. There are fans that still can’t spell his name correctly. Others pronounce his name as “Wise-kamp.”

This past week showed the value Wieskamp brings to this Hawkeye team.

When leading scorer Tyler Cook was absent Wednesday at Northwestern, Wieskamp took over the game offensively in the second half for a stretch and finished with 19 points in a 10-point victory.

Wieskamp altered the game with his defense and rebounding in the second half of Saturday’s 72-62 victory over 16th-ranked Ohio State.

In the last three games — wins over Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State — he’s averaged 13 points, seven rebounds, nearly two assists and shot 50 percent.

“I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” Wieskamp said. “I think that stretch at Northwestern where I kind of took over the game gave me a lot of confidence. My role is a big one for us, and I need to go out and play well every night for us to win in this league.

“I’ve just got to continue to be aggressive and be a key scorer for us.”

Defensively, Wieskamp is serving at the top of Iowa’s three-quarter court press, much like Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff were effective in doing.

He forced multiple turnovers Saturday, blocked a couple of shots with his 6-foot-11 wingspan, came up with two steals and hauled in seven rebounds.

Wieskamp was labeled a scorer in high school. He had to be for Muscatine to have any ounce of success.

The first 17 games of his college career illustrate he’s so much more. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer (11.4), second in rebounding (5.0), the top 3-point shooter (42.4 percent) and one of its best on-ball defenders.

“It is a lot of fun impacting the game more than just by scoring,” he said. “What I’ve really tried to focus on is being a complete player.”

There is no question it has been a major adjustment from high school.

Every detail is dissected at this level. The physicality takes a toll on your body.

Wieskamp suffered a sprained ankle in his first Big Ten road game at Michigan State. He landed awkwardly on his back late in the second half Saturday.

He was eager for an off day Sunday after nine consecutive days of games or practices.

“It has been a grind,” he said. “I was never really sore in high school after a game. Here, I’m getting treatment, ice baths and massages after about every game. I never really had to do that much in high school.”

Wieskamp’s body will continue to develop. Another season or two in a college weight room will help immensely. With more bulk, he'll start to finish plays more frequently around the basket with contact.

And unlike Langford and Brazdeikis, who likely will depart for the NBA after this season, Wieskamp will be a thorn in the side of Big Ten opponents for years to come.

He and sophomore Luka Garza are the cornerstones of the Hawkeyes' future.

“I still have a lot to improve on,” Wieskamp said. “There are a lot of things I still mess up, and it has been a learning experience for me, but I’m getting better and headed in the right direction.”

So too are the Hawkeyes.

Iowa equaled last year’s win total (14) Saturday and still have at least 15 games remaining — 14 in the Big Ten and the conference tournament.

Selection Sunday is two months away.

Iowa has put itself in the conversation. Wieskamp is a big reason for that.

“The team chemistry is really high right now,” he said. “When somebody else does something good, everybody else is happy for them. That’s just a fun environment to be around.”

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