By John Bohnenkamp
CJ Fredrick didn’t score in Iowa’s 79-66 win over Rutgers on Wednesday night, but he was OK with that.
Fredrick was playing again — he played 17 minutes — and to him, that’s what matters.
Fredrick had only played one half in Iowa’s previous four games because of a lower leg injury, and getting back on the court was something he needed.
“The last couple of weeks have really been frustrating for me as a player,” Fredrick said. “I haven’t really, the past couple of weeks, been myself. Having good days, having bad days. It’s frustrating.”
Wednesday was a good day, and his presence on the court helped the Hawkeyes.
Fredrick was 0-of-3 shooting, but he had three assists and two rebounds.
The Hawkeyes had lost four of their last five games, but the return of Fredrick made a difference.
“He’s another guy who is going to spread the court for us,” said center Luka Garza, who scored off all three of Fredrick’s assists in the second half. “He’s probably one of the most consistent shooters in the nation. So he provides a lot for us. And defensively, he’s really, really good at the top of our zone. So it was great to have him back.
“We definitely missed him.”
It’s why all eyes were on Fredrick when he left the game in the first half and went down the tunnel with trainer Brad Floy.
Fredrick laughed after the game when he was asked about it.
“I knew that question would come up,” Fredrick said. “Everybody relax, it’s all right. I had a tape issue, it was rubbing against the bottom of my foot.”
Fredrick said he suffered the injury in Iowa’s 89-67 win at Maryland on Jan. 7, a game in which he played just 18 minutes and finished with two points. The injury, he said, got worse as he kept trying to play on it.
“It’s been really frustrating,” he said. “You know, just waking up and just having a brutal day, and then the next day I’m feeling OK. It’s just been a lot to manage in my mind. Coming to practice every day, just being around the guys, them being positive with me and encouraging with me, that’s what helps me. I love this team, I love being a Hawk, it’s just why I’m really getting better. All the support I’ve been getting has been tremendous.
“I mean this in all sincerity, I’m getting a lot better. I feel like I can start being myself again. Hopefully that can continue.”
Fredrick played 25 1/2 minutes in the Jan. 10 game against Minnesota and 23 1/2 minutes in the Jan. 17 game at Northwestern. But he played 13 minutes in the first half of the Jan. 21 loss to Indiana, then didn’t play at all on Jan. 29. He started against Michigan State on Feb. 2, playing 11 1/2 first-half minutes in the 84-78 win, then missed losses to Ohio State and Indiana.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said earlier in the week that Fredrick would be “day-to-day” with the injury for the rest of the season.
“He’s a guy who understands how to play,” McCaffery said. “He understands situations. He affects the game in a number of different ways. He doesn’t have to score, because he’s a terrific passer, he’s a really good defender, he’s an athlete. He’s a tough kid. It was a real physical game, as you saw, so you need some tough guys out there.
“So, really proud of him in how he’s persevered through some difficult pain, but he said he felt pretty good tonight after the game, so that’s good news.”
Fredrick said he knew he could play because of the way he felt after Monday’s practice.
“I would say the last week I’ve been feeling really good,” he said. “Two days ago, I called my parents after practice and I just said, ‘This was probably one of the best days I’ve had.’ I felt like myself again, kind of had tears in my eyes.”
Fredrick did a post-game analysis of his performance.
“I was able to just cut a lot better — run, play really good defense, I thought,” he said. “The scoring stuff will come. I’m not worried about that. I think as the more I practice, the more reps I get, the rhythm I get, that’ll come back. But tonight I thought I did a good job of staying within the offense, making plays that were needed, playing good defense, making the right passes. I had a couple of shots in the first half that didn’t fall — they were good shots. But we got a win, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Photo: Iowa’s CJ Fredrick shoots in the second half of Wednesday’s win over Rutgers. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)