PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Joe Wieskamp gathered the basketball in front of his bench, with his back to the basket. There was no way he should have been able to turn around, fire and use the backboard with any success.
Spoiler: He did.
He certainly spoiled the night for a sellout crowd of Rutgers fans at the RAC, who filed out in stunned disbelief after Wieskamp’s miracle 3-pointer from the left corner brushed the backboard and fell through with 0.2 seconds remaining. No. 17 Iowa won 71-69, the fourth victory in a row and the second straight that came on a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining.
What is with this team? Who knows? But it’s been nothing short of dramatic. And also has come with a fair amount of toughness.
The first time Iowa visited the greater New York area this season, the Hawkeyes established themselves as potential bullies in the Big Ten Conference.
That November occasion was a sweep of Oregon and Connecticut and an Empire Classic championship won by muscle, not guile.
Three months later, another trip out East and the Hawkeyes affirmed their growing reputation Saturday. The tougher team was going to emerge with a bare-knuckled win at the RAC. That team was Iowa, not Rutgers.
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Jordan Bohannon, the hero of Sunday’s win over Northwestern, led Iowa with 18 points. Isaiah Moss added 17 and Tyler Cook 12.
None were bigger than Wieskamp’s however. The freshman scored nine points and wound up with the ball in his hands only because a length-of-the-court pass by Connor McCaffery deflected off the fingertips of a trio of players and nearly rolled out of bounds.
Wieskamp saved it. Then he saved the evening for Iowa.
Rutgers had taken a 69-68 lead with 3.3 seconds left when Geo Baker made a 3-pointer from the top of the key that hit the rim, then the backboard, then the rim again before rolling in.
The Scarlet Knights and their fans celebrated an apparent victory. Prematurely, it turned out.
It was a physically taxing game, and Iowa (20-5, 9-5 Big Ten Conference) took some time to adjust. The Hawkeyes committed seven early turnovers against a Rutgers defense that was aggressive on the perimeter.
Nicholas Baer, playing six days after suffering a concussion in a home win over Northwestern, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Hawkeyes their first leads. Each time, Scarlet Knights guard Ron Harper Jr. answered with a 3 of his own.
Late in the first half, Moss found success attacking the basket, making Rutgers (12-13, 5-10) pay for overplaying the passing lanes. Moss scored the Hawkeyes’ final eight points of the half, the final two on a rugged offensive rebound and banked-in putback while being fouled. Moss missed that free throw and Iowa trailed 33-32 at halftime.
Iowa next hosts Maryland at 7 p.m. Tuesday.