By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa men’s basketball team did what it was supposed to do against Cal Poly on Sunday, but it was hardly an inspirational performance due mostly to the competition.
Iowa led for all but 24 seconds, and by double figures for much of the second half, and would go on to defeat the overmatched and undersized Mustangs 85-59 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
But it’s hard to get too excited because Iowa and Cal Poly could play 100 times and Iowa probably would win 100 times.
Iowa also struggled in the first half, and in the early stages of the second half, to pull away from the Mustangs.
The fact that sophomore forward Jack Nunge suffered a knee injury in the first half also dampened the mood. Nunge will have an MRI on Monday according to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
"We're going to pray for Jack and hope it's not serious," said senior forward Ryan Kriener. "You never want to see your brother go down hurt."
This was one of those foregone conclusion games where the outcome never was in doubt. The only way the game would have been a big deal is if Iowa had lost, or barely won.
But it was business as usual as Iowa padded its record with what ultimately turned into an easy win, but hopefully, not a costly win depending on what happens to Nunge.
"I didn't really see him go down, I saw him grimacing," said Iowa junior center Luka Garza of Nunge. "I'm just praying for him and hope he's all good."
Redshirt freshman guard C.J. Fredrick made five 3-point baskets and led Iowa with 21 points, while Garza continued his torrid pace on offense with 18 points.
The 6-foot-11 Garza has scored at least 14 point in all five games this season.
Iowa improved to 4-1 and will see the level of competition improve considerably when it faces Texas Tech on Thursday in the Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas, and over the next seven games against opponents that include Syracuse, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa State and Cincinnati, with the Dec. 9th matchup against the Gophers being the only home game during that stretch.
Iowa played without senior point guard Jordan Bohannon on Sunday, and without the 6-11 Nunge for the entire second half.
Bohannon was withheld from Sunday's game because of what Fran McCaffery said was soreness.
Bohannon is recovering from hip surgery in late May and still is deciding whether to play this season or take a redshirt. He could play in up to 10 games during the first semester without exhausting his eligibility.
"Jordan was pretty sore," McCaffery said. "We will see how he does this week."
Nunge left the court in the first half in obvious pain and didn’t return to the game. He watched the second half from the Iowa bench.
Fredrick made his fifth 3-point basket of the game with 12 minutes, 53 seconds left to play and was fouled on the shot. He also made the free throw to give Iowa a 55-42 lead.
The Mustangs never really threatened after that and fell to 1-4 on the second.
Iowa led 35-25 at halftime, but its performance during the first 20-minute half left much to be desired, especially on offense where Iowa shot less than 50 percent from the field, including 3-for-9 form 3-point range.
The first half ended on a sour note as Iowa was trying to melt the clock down for a final shot, but point guard Connor McCaffery had his pass stolen and that led to breakaway dunk by Cal Poly just before time expired.
The Mustangs entered Sunday’s game ranked fourth nationally in 3-point shooting, but it was hard to tell in the first half as they missed all nine of their attempts, some of which they were wide open.
Sophomore Joe Wieskamp had a first half that he probably would just soon forget as he was held scoreless while taking just three shots from the field. He also left the game briefly and after getting his eye poked.
Fredrick also left the game briefly in the first half with what appeared to be pain in his right calf, but he returned a few minutes later from the training room and would go on to finish the half with 11 points.
Fredrick told the media after the game that he had a cramp in his calf.
Wieskamp finally broke into the scoring column by banking in a shot that gave Iowa a 43-32 lead with just under 17 minutes left in the second half.
He made his second basket on a nifty drive in which he also used the glass, expanding Iowa’s lead to 45-24 with 15:30 remaining.
He then made three consecutive free throws that expanded Iowa’s lead to 48-37 with 14:36 left to play.