|1st half||2nd half||Final|
A wire-to-wire Big Ten road win is exactly what the doctor ordered for Penn State as they defeated Iowa 77-73 in Iowa City to open the Jim Delany Memorial December Conference Game Weekend. The Nittany Lions weren't above making this contest a nail-biter, but big performances from Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins saw the visitors move to 7-2 (1-0) on the season.
Penn State started hot once again but this time maintained their lead through the first half. Tony Carr scored just three points in the first 20 minutes, but dished out five assists to his teammates who were more than willing to pick up the slack. Stevens shook off his NC State struggles and scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half to help set the tone, and Mike Watkins got 10 in typical Mike Watkins fashion:
Mike Watkins oh my goodness. pic.twitter.com/gHWw6NVMJC
— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) December 2, 2017
The Lions' first half three-point prowess (7-12) certainly aided matters as the referees allowed physical play and called 11 fouls on Penn State compared to Iowa's five.
Those foul issues trickled over to the second half as Stevens picked up his third shortly after the break. His presence might have blown the game open, but Iowa was unwilling to let the game slip so easily. Tyler Cook led the Hawkeye charge with 23 points and 12 rebounds. You could be forgiven for thinking this dunk would've drained all of Penn State's momentum:
But it was not to be a ship-righting win for the Hawkeyes, who desperately needed a win to maintain their slim NCAA tournament chances. Stevens hit the biggest shot of the game though, a difficult mid-range jumper in Cook's face with :42 seconds to play. He and Carr, who finished with 14 points and 9 assists, hit the necessary free throws to clinch victory and keep Penn State on the path to a postseason bid.
Shooting was the story on Saturday evening - Penn State shot 12-23 from deep on the night. Carr and Shep Garner each shot 4-6 from beyond the arc, neutralizing Iowa's advantage at the free throw line (21 attempts to Penn State's 11). Pat Chambers didn't get much from his bench in the scoring department - 0 points, in fact - but once again Jamari Wheeler's contributions cannot be ignored. The freshman point guard recorded four assists and dogged Hawkeye sharpshooter Jordan Bohannon in his 20 minutes. Bohannon averages just over 6 threes attempted per game, but was only able to put up four attempts in a game in which his team always trailed.
Penn State will return home for a date with Wisconsin, who got absolutely boatraced by Ohio State 83-58 in the Kohl Center(!) on Saturday. The Lions are still behind the proverbial NCAA tournament eight ball, but a 2-0 start in conference play will allay some fears of a lost season over missed opportunities in the non-conference. More on the Badgers on Monday.