IOWA CITY, Iowa – When things are tough and you’re hurting physically and mentally, it’s always good to come home.
It’s good to be where the surroundings are familiar, where you feel comfortable and secure, and where the faces are friendly and the fans are supportive.
The depleted Iowa men’s basketball team had that working to its advantage on Friday for a change, and it obviously made a huge difference during a 67-49 victory over No. 12 Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Just ask sophomore Joe Wieskamp, who was coming off a game at Nebraska just three days earlier when he only made 1-of-10 shots from 3-point range during a 66-61 loss.
Wieskamp made five 3-point baskets and finished with a career-high 26 points against Maryland on Friday, while also matching his career with 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 Muscatine native had four 3-point field goals and 18 points by halftime, and scored all 18 of his first-half points in the final 11 minutes, 21 seconds of the half.
Junior center Luka Garza also stuffed the stat sheet as usual with 21 points and 13 rebounds. It was his Big Ten-leading 10th double-double in 16 games this season.
"We talk about parity, and it sounds like coach speak, but there is real parity in this league," Iowa coch Fran McCaffery said on the FS1 post-game interview. "Everybody has good players. Everybody has a good coach. Everybody has a great fan base. And you have to be able to execute when you go on the road and you have to to make shots.
"We didn't do that the other night. And Maryland didn't do it tonight. They moved it, moved it, moved it and ran some stuff. Their shots weren't dropping and I thought our activity was real good and we didn't give them a lot of seconds."
Wieskamp told reporters on Thursday that he looked forward to playing at home again where he is familiar with the baskets, and with the Nike balls that Iowa uses.
Friday’s game marked just the third time since Nov. 24th that Iowa has played at home, and the convenience of playing at home was much needed for a team that had lost back-to-back Big Ten games.
And maybe so, too, was the technical foul that Fran McCaffery received just minutes into Friday’s game because it seemed to light a spark. McCaffery was upset about a touch foul that had been called on Iowa guard Bakari Evelyn while defending a 3-point shot.
McCaffery also received a technical foul in the early stages of this past Tuesday’s loss at Nebraska. However, that technical foul didn't have the same impact that Friday's technical had on Iowa's performance.
Wieskamp made his fourth 3-point basket right before the halftime buzzer to give Iowa a 38-24 lead at the break.
Iowa used a 19-2 scoring run in the first half to seize control of the game.
It also might have helped that the Iowa players held a meeting after the Nebraska loss as a way to bond in the face of adversity. There is no time or place for excuses, so the only option is to make the best out of what you have, and Wieskamp and his cohorts certainly did that on Friday in impressive fashion.
It was clear at halftime that Maryland was in trouble, but there still was plenty of time for the circumstances to change.
Maryland has a habit of struggling early in games and then coming on strong in the second half. And with Iowa’s depleted roster, a 14-point deficit hardly seemed out of reach for the Terrapins.
But the second-half comeback never really materialized beyond a couple modest spurts. Iowa led by double figures for the entire second half.
Redshirt freshman guard C.J. Fredrick missed his second game in a row with a stress reaction in his left foot.
Iowa played without three starters overall on Friday with senior point guard Jordan Bohannon and sophomore Jack Nunge both out for the remainder of the season because of injuries.
Fran McCaffery has refused to use injuries as an excuse, saying that every team experiences adversity during the course of a season.
His refuse-to-give-in mentality seems to have paid dividends on Friday as Iowa mostly had its way with a nationally ranked opponent.
Maryland didn’t shoot well, and was sloppy with the basketball, committing 17 turnovers.
Some of it was self-inflicted, but some of it was also due to Iowa’s effort and execution on defense.
Iowa only shot 38 percent from the field and had 18 turnovers, but made up for its offensive woes on defense.
Friday’s game was the start of a stretch in which Iowa plays four of five games at home, although, its next game is Tuesday at Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes improved to 11-5 overall and 2-3 in the conference, while Maryland fell to 13-3 and 3-2.