IOWA CITY — Bryce Cartwright has fought through illness, concussion-like symptoms, a hamstring injury and a high-ankle sprain this season.
With only a few games left in his Iowa career, the senior point guard wants to put those injuries behind him and focus on the task at hand, specifically playing and playing well.
“I’m getting around to it,” Cartwright said. “There’s no excuses. I’m just going to play my hardest.”
Cartwright’s performances directly impact the Hawkeyes (16-15, 8-10 Big Ten), both positively and negatively. When he scores in double digits, Iowa is 6-0. When he turns over the ball five or more times, Iowa is 0-4.
His numbers last Saturday against Northwestern were a mixed bag. Cartwright played 35 minutes and had eight assists, but he accounted for six turnovers in a 70-66 loss.
“I think the ones in the first half that led to direct layups and then they got back in the game easily, those ones were the ones that hurt us the most,” Cartwright said.
“I know when I play well, generally our team plays well. I guess if you want to put that as a barometer, I guess you can.”
Cartwright slumped in the season’s first month with illness and then suffered a hamstring injury on Dec. 3. He missed Iowa’s next game, then played sparingly in a reserve role for the next month. He returned to form at Wisconsin in a 72-65 upset on Dec. 31. He scored a season-high 17 points and had five assists to only one turnover.
But the consistency didn’t return. He had five assists and five turnovers in a road defeat at Michigan State. Then he had five assists and only one turnover in a home win against Michigan. He regained his spot in the starting lineup at Indiana only to lose it five games later because of a sprained ankle.
“I do think at one point his confidence was not what it needed to be,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “We tried to challenge him and then to back off from it to kind of help him through it. But our running game is so much better when he’s out there. He’s a good late‑game player so he’s feeling the best he’s felt in a long time.”
Cartwright’s teammates have confidence he can regain his past performance. As a junior Cartwright led the Big Ten in assists during league action and he’s still among the league’s best in assist-to-turnover ratio. He still finished fourth this year despite missing three games because of injuries.
“I think Bryce is a really good player when he’s on his game and he’s making good passes and scoring the ball like he can,” Iowa sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe said. ”Whatever his struggles have been this year, he’s still a good player and he’s still capable of impacting a game so you can’t take that away from him.”
“I think he tries to get the team in rhythm. A lot of times he also has to get himself in rhythm. Usually the games when he’s playing good and he has high assists it tends to be spread around, and I’m one of the people who benefits from that.”
Iowa’s success at the Big Ten Tournament will be shaped by what Cartwright does at both ends of the court.
“I need to have an outstanding performance throughout the tournament, defensively as well as offensively,” he said. “I think more defensively … whenever my team needs to make a play as far as a tight game, when we need a stop, just that type of setting. You never know which play (will change the game).”
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