It's good to be Iowa men's basketball right now. The Hawkeyes picked up two victories last week -- first a rare conference road win at Northwestern and then a thrilling home win over then-#19 Michigan on Friday. Those two wins sent Iowa's ranking shooting up to #19 in the new polls -- and also saw some individual recognition as well, with Luka Garza earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors and CJ Fredrick earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors from the league office.
Big Ten Player of the Week— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) January 20, 2020
Big Ten Freshman of the Week
Luka Garza named Player of the Week for a second time this season, while Fredrick earns his first Freshman of the Week honor.
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Garza earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the second time this season, after he was honored in early December as well. Amusingly, that POTW honor also came after an Iowa game against Michigan; Iowa didn't win that game, but Garza did go off to the tune of 44 points. Garza had 33 against Michigan on Friday night -- this time in an Iowa win. Something about playing the Wolverines seems to bring out the absolute best in Garza.
Against Michigan, Garza had 33 points on 10/18 shooting (2/3 from 3-point range), plus a career-best 11/13 performance at the free throw line. He also tallied seven rebounds, a steal, and a block. Against Northwestern, Garza had 27 points on 10/14 shooting (2/3 from long range) and 5/6 at the free throw line. His scoring came in distinct bunches in that game: he scored the first 10 points of the game for Iowa in the first half and then scored 14 straight points in the second half to help Iowa pull away and ice the win. He also had three rebounds and two blocks in that game. Overall, last week Garza averaged 30 ppg, 5 rpg, and 1.5 bpg, while shooting 63% from the floor, 67% from behind the arc, and 84% from the free throw line. Those are, uh, winning numbers.
Of course last week was just the most recent high-water mark in a season that's already been full of standout performances for Garza. He's leading the Big Ten in scoring at 22.9 ppg -- almost 3.0 ppg more than the second-highest scorer (Minnesota's Daniel Oturu at 20.2 ppg). That 22.9 ppg scoring mark ranks sixth nationally. He's also averaging 10.2 rpg, second-best in the Big Ten (behind Oturu's 11.9 rpg). Garza's posted a double-double in 10 games this season (out of 18 total), tied for 10th most nationally and 2nd best in the Big Ten (behind Oturu with 11). He was named to the Wooden Award Mid-season Top 25 as well as the Sporting News Mid-season All-America team. He's also the current leader in the KenPom Player of the Year race. The Peacock is absolutely soaring this year, folks.
While Garza is the top name on the marquee for Iowa hoops this year, CJ Fredrick has proven himself pretty indispensable to the Hawkeyes as well this year. Iowa's last two losses came against Penn State and Nebraska -- games in which Fredrick played just one mostly ineffective half total with dealing with a stress reaction in his foot. Iowa did manage to topple Maryland without Fredrick in the lineup a few weeks ago, but they also benefited mightily from a season-worst shooting performance from the Terps in that game. Fredrick made his return to Iowa's lineup last week and started both the Northwestern and Michigan games -- and immediately showed us what Iowa had been missing in his absence.
Fredrick played 31 minutes against the Wildcats and had 11 points on 4/10 shooting (3/7 from deep), while grabbing two rebounds, snatching two steals, and tying a career-best with five assists. It was nice to have Fredrick back against Northwestern, but he was absolutely essential in Iowa's win over Michigan. He tied his career-best with 21 points (on a very nice 6/9 shooting performance from the floor, including 3/4 from deep), while also going 6/6 at the free throw line, grabbing four rebounds, and dishing out three assists. Overall, Fredrick averaged 16 ppg, 3 rpg, and 4 apg in Iowa's wins last week, while shooting 53% from the floor and 55% from beyond the arc.
Fredrick's production was vital to Iowa's win over the Wolverines, but his presence alone makes Iowa a much better team. Having Fredrick gives Iowa a much-needed third option on offense, alongside Garza and Joe Wieskamp, which makes Iowa much harder to defend. He improves Iowa's spacing and ball movement and is a player that opposing defenses have to worry about at all times. Against Michigan, Fredrick was lethal from deep but also on cuts into the lane. Fredrick's also a solid ballhandler and an ace free throw shooter, which makes him a key presence at the end of games. And he's a plus defender as well. Fredrick has made a very impressive start to his Iowa career this season; to maximize their potential this season, Iowa is going to need to have Fredrick on the court as much as possible over the next few months. Here's hoping the stress reaction in his foot doesn't keep him off the floor too much as the season hits the home stretch.
Congratulations to Garza and Fredrick on their richly-deserved recognition from the league office.