Cartwright continues ascent as point guard


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The clock was winding down as Bryce Cartwright drove into a thicket of Hoosiers.

The junior found his path impeded, stepped back, and flicked his wrist. The ball settled through the cords, and just like that, the Hawkeyes beat Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., on Feb. 5 for their first conference road win in more than a year.

Cartwright’s late-game heroics didn’t surprise Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. The point guard from Compton, Calif., has established himself as McCaffery’s go-to player in tense situations, and has delivered four first-half buzzer-beaters this season.

The 6-1 junior saved his biggest shot for the Hoosiers, though, and McCaffery appreciated Cartwright’s willingness to take matters into his own hands.

“He’s just fearless,” McCaffery said. “That’s what we need — that’s what this team needed.”

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Cartwright has emerged as one of the best game managers in the Big Ten, averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 assists. He is one of two players in team history to record eight or more assists in four-straight games — the great Andre Woolridge accomplished the feat in the 1994-95 season.

His statistics take on more importance because injuries have turned him into the Hawkeyes’ only legitimate point guard this year. Cartwright, in his first year at Iowa after spending his first two seasons at Fresno State and Paris (Texas) Junior College, was handed the reins when sophomore Cully Payne was sidelined with a sport hernia in November.

McCaffery said his other Hawkeyes have responded to the soft-spoken guard’s leadership and Cartwright’s strong play has made him the favorite to start at point next year.

“He’s a leader in the sense that our team feels comfortable when he has the ball — they feel comfortable in the decisions that he’s making,” the first-year coach said. “[He has] become cerebral in terms of his ability to understand exactly what we want and then go ahead and carry it out.”

Cartwright isn’t distracted by his success, though. In a radio interview conducted after his shot defeated Indiana, he stressed the importance of staying grounded and bringing his best effort to every game.

“We’re arguably in the best conference [in the country], so you know you’re going to get good games throughout the league,” Cartwright said. “You have to come ready to play, or you can get beaten on any given night.”

Payne’s status still unclear

Even though Paynehasn’t played since he had surgery on Nov. 30 to remedy a sports hernia, McCaffery isn’t ruling out bringing the sophomore back to the court before the season is over.

“I have not been given anything definitive by our medical people,” McCaffery said. “When I get it, I’ll tell you, but he hasn’t played yet. I’m willing to bet he won’t play this year — but, again, that hasn’t been determined.”

The short schedule — only six games remain in the regular season — and Cartwright’s emergence make Payne’s return this year seem unlikely. Still, the native of Schaumburg, Ill., appears to have regained much of his mobility and has been active on the bench during recent games.

Ticket exchange

Fans who were unable to use their tickets to the Hawkeyes’ 72-52 win over Michigan State on Feb. 2 can exchange their ticket for entry to any of the Hawkeyes’ remaining home games, according to a release. Limited seats are available for each game, so fans are encouraged to make the switch as early as possible. Only unused tickets from the Michigan State game may be exchanged.

Iowa’s remaining home games are Wednesday against Wisconsin, Feb. 13 against Minnesota, Feb. 19 against Michigan, and March 5 or 6 against Purdue.

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