By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – After watching Sunday’s exhibition game between the Iowa men’s basketball team and Guilford College, at least two things seem obvious:
Joe Wieskamp will make a significant contribution for the Hawkeyes as a true freshman, and Iowa would dominate the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
That is hardly going out on a limb because the 6-foot-6 Wieskamp is expected to be a key member of the team, and because Guilford College is a Division III team from Greensboro, N.C., that really had no business being on the same court as Iowa from a competitive standpoint.
But it was only an exhibition game and the choice of Guilford College, which is a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, as the opponent can be traced to Fran McCaffery’s days as the head coach at North Carolina-Greensboro.
Iowa’s ninth-year head coach was doing a favor for some old acquaintances, even if it came wrapped in a 103-46 loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“The thing about an exhibition game is you’re not playing Guilford and Guilford is not playing Iowa,” McCaffery said. “Both teams are trying to get better. So they’re working on some things and we’re working on some things.
“Obviously, we wanted to stay after them defensively, even when we got a lead, and I thought for the most part we did that.”
The 6-foot-6 Wieskamp started Sunday’s game and made an immediate impact by making two of Iowa’ first three baskets. The Muscatine native scored from the perimeter, from mid-range and on penetration while finishing with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“It was pretty exiting putting on that uniform and running out of that tunnel for the first time and just going out there and having fun with my teammates,” said Wieskamp, who finished his high schools career as the all-time leading scorer in Class 4A in Iowa.
Sunday’s game was too much of a mismatch to learn much about this Iowa team, and specifically about whether it has improved defensively from last season when is allowed nearly 80 points per game and finished 4-14 in the Big Ten and 14-19 overall.
Iowa led 52-22 at halftime, and that was without starting point guard Jordan Bohannon due to what was described as a bad bone bruise by McCaffery.
Redshirt freshman Connor McCaffery, who is Fran McCaffery’s son, started at point guard and finished with nine points, three assists and four turnovers.
Freshman guard C.J. Fredrick also missed Sunday’s exhibition due to a rib injury.
Iowa announced on Sunday that Fredrick would take a redshirt this season.
Fran McCaffery seemed optimistic when asked if the thinks Bohannon will play in the next two games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, including the season opener against Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday.
“The plan would be for him to play in that game,” McCaffery said. “He’s getting better, he’s close. He’s day-top-day, feeling a lot better than he did a week ago, but (our team doctor) would have to make that decision, along with Jordan.”
As for Iowa’s defensive performance, it’s hard to evaluate due to the lack of competition.
Nobody seemed to be disengaged on defense, so that’s a positive.
But to say that Iowa has improved on defense because of what happened on Sunday would be more than just presumptuous, it would be naive.
Those answers will come with time and against better competition.
“We had some breakdowns,” Fran McCaffery said. “They scored at the end of the shot clock a few times, which is always disappointing because that typically means you played pretty good defense for 27 or 28 seconds. So we’ve got some things to shore up.
“But again, we have an unselfish team and a lot of different guys that score. And I felt we worked. And I challenged them to do that.”
Junior forward Tyler Cook was among six Iowa players who scored in double figures on Sunday. The St. Louis native finished with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and led Iowa with seven assists.
Cook scored his first points of the game on a 3-point basket. The 6-9, 250-pounder also seemed more comfortable playing on the perimeter compared to his first two seasons at Iowa.
That could’ve been due to the competition, but Cook also has worked hard on expanding his offensive game to the perimeter.
“I’m just finding other guys and they make me look better thatn I am when they’re making shots,” Cook said. “I’m just finding the open guy and getting it to them.”
Cook declared for the 2018 NBA Draft before deciding to return to Iowa for his junior season, which officially starts on Thursday.
“It was kind of fun to get back out there in front of the fans with the jersey on again,” Cook said.
Sophomore center Luka Garza scored 11 points and matched Cook’s accuracy by making all but one of his six field-goal attempts.
Garza is working back into shape after having surgery in September to remove a 10-pound cyst from his abdomen.
“I’m just going to need to catch up and get back into the shape that I was,” Garza said. “I felt great out there.”