IOWA CITY — Joe Wieskamp had not made a 3-pointer since the calendar flipped to 2021. His shooting percentages dipped considerably in the last four outings. His minutes had been slashed in the last week.
So after the Iowa basketball team’s road win against Maryland on Thursday night, a game in which he played a season-low 17 minutes, the junior did some soul searching on how he could snap out of his struggles.
“I knew I had to earn a little bit of respect back and go prove that in practice,” Wieskamp said. “I was extremely aggressive, up in people's space and set a tone to let (coach Fran McCaffery) know what I’m capable of and why I need to be on the floor.”
Wieskamp carried that to the court Sunday afternoon.
The 6-foot-6 Muscatine High School graduate needed just nine shots to match a season high with 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in nearly 36 minutes as fifth-ranked Iowa avenged a Christmas night loss to Minnesota with an 86-71 Big Ten Conference triumph at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
In his 79th game as a Hawkeye, Wieskamp became the program’s 50th player to reach 1,000 career points with a free throw early in the second half.
“It is pretty special,” Wieskamp said. “Obviously, it is one of the goals I set for myself when I got here at the university.”
More than a milestone, Wieskamp needed a performance like this.
Since tallying 17 points and nine rebounds against Purdue in the Big Ten opener, Wieskamp had been sideways.
And with Iowa's depth this season, McCaffery has multiple options on his bench to turn to when one of his key cogs isn't performing.
Wieskamp was 3-for-8 shooting against Northwestern, 2-for-9 at Rutgers and attempted only six shots at Maryland. He had missed 15 of his last 19 tries from the 3-point line and failed to get into double figures the previous two games. His defense was lacking at times, too.
But for a player who scored 2,376 points in high school and has been in double figures 55 times during his Hawkeye career, it was a matter of when, not if, he would get back on track.
He is too talented, too experienced and too accomplished to stay in a rut for a substantial period of time.
So besides a spirited practice Saturday, Wieskamp did more film study in recent days to see the way teams are defending him, how he can generate more openings for himself and how he can better play off All-American Luka Garza.
“At times, I’ve forced some tough shots and that might be why my numbers are down a little bit,” Wieskamp said. “It was getting back to taking the right shot and making the right basketball play.
“If you’re coming off a screen, find the open guy instead of forcing something up.”
It was vintage Wieskamp on Sunday.
He picked his spots when to attack the basket, when to pull up for a mid-range jumper or when to launch a 3. It led to his most efficient performance in a month.
Wieskamp delivered the dagger on Iowa's fifth conference win in six games with a 3-pointer from the wing with 70 seconds remaining.
“He had a tremendous, tremendous practice (Saturday),” McCaffery said. “I told him, that’s how you play. Play that way at both ends, good things are going to happen.
“If he did make a mistake, he played through it and just kept fighting. I thought his physicality on both ends was really good. With the way teams guard him, that’s how he has to be. We needed that kind of performance out of him today, and I’m really proud of him.”
While the bench has been terrific for Iowa this season, most notably at Maryland, the experienced vets shouldered the load in this one.
Garza had 33 points on 13-for-20 shooting. Jordan Bohannon had 19 points, a career-high 14 assists and no turnovers.
Throw in Wieskamp's 20 points and those three outscored Minnesota 72-71.
And for a team in the midst of four home games in its next five, this was a pivotal win to stay just a game in the loss column behind Michigan in the league race.
There was added motivation given how the game unfolded in Minneapolis.
"This game was kind of personal for us," Wieskamp said.
It was for Wieskamp, too.