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Bryce Cartwright boasts impressive performance in Iowa blowout


This news story was published on February 6, 2012.
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Scott Dochterman, CR Gazette –

IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was waiting for a game like this from Bryce Cartwright and, frankly, so was Cartwright.

After a season filled with minor injuries, various illnesses and spotty play, Cartwright pushed through one of his best efforts as a Hawkeye in a 77-64 win against Penn State on Saturday. Cartwright’s numbers were impressive: 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and only one turnover in 34 minutes. But it was his ability to dictate tempo and play tight defense on Penn State’s Tim Frazier that made the difference for the Hawkeyes (13-11, 5-6 Big Ten) in their second straight win.

“He was great,” McCaffery said. “The way he ran the break in the first half is how he was running it at the end of the year. It’s been how he’s been running it lately. We’re a different team. He’s pushing it.”

Cartwright’s performance rewards McCaffery, who had been patient with the senior guard. Cartwright led the Big Ten in assists during league play last year and started the first eight games this year to mixed results. Then he suffered a hamstring injury in early December and struggled to find a rhythm.

He rebounded with a 17-point, five-assist effort off the bench against Wisconsin in a 62-55 upset win at Kohl Center. But Cartwright struggled to replicate that performance, which left McCaffery wondering if Cartwright ever would regain his previous form.

“I think very briefly, very briefly, because at the beginning we’re just trying to figure out what was wrong with him,” McCaffery said. “He had a multitude of things that affected his energy level, affected his concentration.

“He wasn’t himself. So I can yell at him or whatever, but he just wasn’t physically ready to do it. There were a couple of times where I felt like he was back healthy, and then was still sideways a little bit with his game. And that was disappointing. That’s when I challenged him to play both ends of the floor.”

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Cartwright, a senior from Compton, Calif., was relegated to the bench after his injury, a role in which he wasn’t comfortable. So he sought a meeting with McCaffery to get more playing time. Their meeting was direct and honest, and McCaffery started with Cartwright’s defense.

“It’s a just personal meeting we had to get more playing time,” Cartwright said. “I felt like I could do more to contribute to this team and that’s how I’m always going to think.”

“We had a talk about 10 days ago,” McCaffery said. “He said, ‘Now just tell me exactly what you need me to do.’ I said, ‘You have to — I am not going to put you in the starting lineup. I am not going to play you the minutes you want until you commit to stopping your man. And in making good decisions and pushing the ball in the break and doing it consistently and effectively with great effort.’

“He said ‘OK. All right. I’ll do it.’ And he’s been doing it.”

Last week at Indiana, McCaffery altered his starting lineup. Cartwright moved back to the point, and Marble slid to a wing position. Cartwright scored eight points with eight assists, but he also gave up six turnovers. He rallied with a better performance in a win against Minnesota last Wednesday.

Saturday, Cartwright was effective in both halves, scoring nine points by halftime. He halted a second-half Penn State run with a jumper and hit 7-of-8 free throws.

Cartwright’s teammates said the team runs more smoothly on offense with he is on top of his game.

“That’s good to having him playing well. We need it,” senior Matt Gatens said. “Bryce does a great job of getting in the lane, finding guys and does a great job of dropping it off to Mel (Basabe) and I. He’s a doing a great job with that starting role, and we need him to continue to do that.”

“He takes the pressure off guys like me and Matt and other guys because he’s able to create for us and others,” Marble said. “When he’s playing well, the game comes a lot easier for most of us.”

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