IOWA CITY — Joe Wieskamp scored a career-high 30 points in Iowa’s dismantling of Nebraska on Saturday afternoon, which ended in a 96-72 win that handed the Huskers their worst loss of the Fred Hoiberg era.
No. 17 Iowa never trailed and rattled off 55 points in the second half. It led by as many as 38.
“Any time you get beat by this amount of points, when you’re down 30 points, it’s humiliating,” Hoiberg said.
The 24-point loss is the fourth worst of Hoiberg’s college coaching career — worst at Nebraska — and the largest margin of defeat for the program since a 29-point loss at Michigan last February.
Wieskamp finished 10 of 15 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers. He scored 17 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. All-America candidate Luka Garza ended with 22 points on 13 shots with eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
The Hawkeyes (17-6, 8-5) dominated in the first 10 minutes of both halves — up 15-2 to start, then making 9 of 12 shots in the second to all but end the game with 13 minutes left.
Cam Mack returned to the starting lineup with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Jervay Green added 18 points, including 11 in the first half.
Haanif Cheatham didn’t score in 15 minutes and was helped off the floor in the second half with a calf injury. Hoiberg’s postgame diagnosis was a calf bruise.
Most of Nebraska’s success in the first game between these teams — a 76-70 Husker win — came from bothering Hawkeye shooters at the 3-point line. Iowa made four 3s in 40 minutes in Lincoln.
The Hawkeyes matched that in the first four minutes Saturday.
The only reason Nebraska (7-16, 2-10) was in Saturday’s game at all was an eight-minute Iowa scoring drought after it took a 25-9 lead. The Hawkeyes missed 11 straight shots while the Huskers ran off a 12-0 spurt with four made buckets in the lane and a turnaround jumper from Matej Kavas.
“I loved our middle stretch in the first half. I really think we competed defensively, we were getting deflections, getting out in translation,” Hoiberg said. “We cut that thing all the way down to four.”
But at 25-21, Iowa kicked its offense — the third-most efficient in the country — back into gear. CJ Fredrick, who missed the first game last month, made a guarded 3-pointer at the buzzer for 41-30 advantage at the break.
Then Wieskamp came out of his shell, with seven points in 56 seconds to get himself started in the second half. He had 10 more during the next five minutes.
In the final five minutes of the first half and the first 10 of the second, Iowa connected on 21 of 29 shots.
“We scored the first bucket of the second (half), and obviously from there it was a disaster,” Hoiberg said. “It’s tough when, on the road, you don’t covert the easy ones that are there for you, and then they hit a shot on the other end. That’s deflating.”
With the lead growing, Hoiberg benched all but one starter, playing freshmen Akol Arop and Charlie Easley, Kavas, Green and Thorir Thorbjarnarson for a stretch. Wieskamp hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the first two defensive possessions with those five on the floor.
Fran McCaffery put in his benchwarmers with seven minutes left and Nebraska saved face by dropping the deficit to 24. NU is now eight games into the losing streak with eight games remaining, including a trip to No. 9 Maryland on Tuesday.
“You stick together, you bring them in, have a couple good days of work heading into this game at Maryland,” Hoiberg said. “Biggest thing is going out, playing with effort and hopefully giving ourselves a chance.”
The bill would not require colleges or universities to pay student-athletes but would allow players to ink sponsorship deals or hire an agent without being penalized by losing their athletic scholarship or amateur status under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.
The Huskers had a chance to beat a top 10-team Tuesday night for the first time since No Sit Sunday. But Cam Mack’s potential game-winner was blocked with three seconds left by 6-foot-10 Jalen Smith, and the 45-point second half and 14-point comeback fell just short.
Nebraska will again be an underdog at home against Wisconsin on Saturday. On paper, there’s not much to play for anymore this season. But don’t tell that to senior guard Haanif Cheatham. “You can’t bow down,” Cheatham said. “You can’t just give up.”
What will Legends Day be like at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2030? Will there be a parade of all-time Huskers, All-Big Ten and All-Americans, walking out of the tunnel? Will they show highlights of Nebraska playing deep into the NCAA tournament?
Nebraska has lost 10 straight, and Thursday it gets one of the preseason favorites to win it all. But Michigan State has lost four of its last five, so could the Huskers be getting them at the right time?