Austin Lederman (@AustinLederman)
Penn State has played well against top level competition in the Big Ten. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes just had too much depth to handle down the stretch.
Penn State fell to No. 16 Iowa 82-70 in a game that was both entertaining and lulling at different points.
Penn State (13-13, 4-9) hung tough with Iowa for awhile. The Nittany Lions entered halftime leading 33-31 behind a 18-10 run to close out the first half. Forward Ross Travis provided a quality minutes off the bench and was active on both sides of the ball.
The game was tied at 44 with 12:56 to play. The 3rd-most efficient offense went on a 14-4 run over the next five minutes to give themselves enough of a cushion that Penn State failed to squash.
A John Johnson layup cut Iowa’s lead to six with five minutes to play. The momentum was swinging Penn State’s way and Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery called a timeout. Aaron White scored on a dunk off the inbounds play and the Hawkeyes regained the momentum.
The Hawkeyes (19-6, 8-4) played off their own energy and was able to extend their lead to 13 before Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers elected to intentionally foul for a stretch, but the Hawkeyes connected on their free throws late and shot 31-of-40 on the day.
For the Nittany Lions to beat the behemoths of the Big Ten, they need just about everything to go right over the course of a game.
They got a great performance out of Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill, who scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Forward Ross Travis scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench, but it wasn’t enough.
“Here’s the problem: if you’re not making threes, it’s very easy to guard,” Chambers said. “We only had one scorer today. We’ve been talking about three scorers. We only had one. I’m not counting the last two minutes, I’m not counting any of those points.
“So in reality you had one guy get 22 and everyone else was in single digits,” CHambers said. “If you can’t make outside jump shots, it’s going to be very difficult to win in the Big Ten, it’s that simple. It’s not science, but it’s very simple.”
Penn State had trouble connecting from deep (3-of-16) and struggled to generate easy looks in the last 10 minutes of the second half. Two of Penn State’s 3-pointers came under two minutes, which Chambers said he didn’t consider in the outcome of the game. When it mattered, Penn State was just 1-of-14 from deep. It allowed Iowa to pack the paint and try to deter drivers, though Penn State finished with 40 points in the paint.
Graduate student Tim Frazier, who was the star in the road win at Indiana, struggled from the field (4-of-17) en route to 11 points. Johnson also added 11 points.
Forward Brandon Taylor was just 1-of-5 from deep, Newbill was 0-of-3 and Johnson was 1-of-3. On the contrary, Iowa shot 7-of-19 from downtown and point guard Mike Gesell connected on 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
“I would give Iowa credit,” Chambers said of his team’s difficulties from deep. “They’re long and they’re very disruptive. That’s why they’re one of the best at defending the three.”
Six Hawkeyes players scored seven points or more, yet no player scored more than 16. Chambers acknowledged how difficult it is to guard a team with so many threats.
“That’s a veteran team,” Chambers said. “They’ve got seniors, they’ve got juniors, they’ve got solid basketball players.
“They’re mature guys, they’re men,” Chambers continued. “Their bodies are developed. It’s a luxury to be able to reverse the ball and a lot of different guys can make plays and they share the ball.”
Not only do the Hawkeyes have a great understanding of basketball, but they have a great understanding of how McCaffery wants them to play.
“Those players have bought into Iowa basketball,” Chambers said. “It’s very obvious. There’s no egos, there’s no selfishness out there. Obviously I’m disappointed we lost but that’s a tough team to play against.”
The Nittany Lions will get a few days off to refresh their minds and bodies before traveling to Lincoln to take on Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) Feb. 20.