Penn State vs. No. 23 Iowa Preview: Desperate Lions Host Hot Hawkeyes

By Chad Markulics on January 16, 2019 at 12:20 pm
Jan 6, 2019; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes forward Tyler Cook (25) controls the ball as Nebraska Cornhuskers forward Brady Heiman (45) defends during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Jeffrey Becker - USA Today Sports

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Iowa Hawkeyes
No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes
14-3 (3-3 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
7:00 p.m. ET - Wednesday, January 15
Bryce Jordan Center
State College, Pennsylvania
Watch Info: BTN/BTN2Go
KenPom Rank: 34
Vegas Line: Pick 'em

Penn State's nightmare start to conference play continued on national television Sunday, as another lifeless offensive performance against Michigan State doomed them to their third double-digit loss of the conference season. The Nittany Lions defended well enough, as usual, but could not buy a bucket when it counted, never getting within more than 10 points in the second half.

A few weeks ago we mentioned that the difficult start to the Big Ten schedule could either kickstart Penn State's season with a few wins or expose their weaknesses and doom them to a 2010-like slump. It's clearly been the latter so far, with nothing clicking offensively and Pat Chambers struggling to come up with any answers other than a lack of Tony Carr.

Winners of three straight, the Iowa Hawkeyes will get their turn at the PSU punching bag tonight. Fran McCaffery's team was defeated twice by Chambers' bunch last season, and revenge will be on the cards on Wednesday evening. The Hawkeyes still haven't figured out how to play lockdown defense, but the offense is as potent as ever with four double-digit scorers and an 82 points-per-game average on the season.

Projected Starters
Penn State   Iowa
Rasir Bolton - 6'2" - Fr. 1 Jordan Bohannon - 6'1" - Jr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Isaiah Moss - 6'5" - Jr.
Josh Reaves - 6'4" - Sr. 3 Joe Wieskamp - 6'6" - Fr.
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Tyler Cook - 6'9" - Jr.
Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Jr. 5 Luka Garza - 6'11" - Soph.

Scouting Report

Iowa has always known how to score under McCaffery. That hasn't changed in 2019. The Hawkeyes have scorers at all three levels and really get to the free throw line - in fact, nobody in the country has a better ratio of free throws to field goals attempted, and a whopping 26.6% of their points come at the free throw line (Division I average is 18.9%). That's not great news for a Penn State team that fouls a lot and can't really afford foul trouble due to its lack of depth.

Tyler Cook chose to spurn the NBA for another season in Iowa City, and what a season it's been so far. He's averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Cook had 19 and 24 points in the two games against PSU last season. Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens will have their hands full with he and Luka Garza, who is having himself a solid sophomore campaign. Garza, who was recruited by Chambers, shot 5-14 in the two PSU games a year ago against Watkins. Penn State will need to continue to batten down inside against this Iowa team and do it without fouling.

McCaffery's star freshman Joe Wieskamp stepped into the rotation from day one and produced at a high level. Wieskamp has been one of the most efficient freshmen in the conference, shooting 42% from three on just under four attempts per game. He's picked up some of Jordan Bohannon's slack, who is shooting just 36% on the season, well below his career mark of 41%.

Defense is still not a strong point for this Hawkeye team after finishing dead last in the conference (by a wide margin) in defensive efficiency last season. It's improved, to be sure, but there are plenty of leaky pipes in the rotation, especially on the interior. Penn State's going to have to be able to get to and convert at the rim considering how erratic their three-point shooting has been this year.

Prediction

This is as good an opportunity the Nittany Lions will have against a ranked opponent the rest of the season. Iowa has some fatal flaws on defense and Penn State knows how to defend the Hawkeyes, having done so successfully twice last season. Still, PSU's struggles are very apparent and any Big Ten team will be licking their chops to grab an elusive road win. This Iowa team seems to have figured it out just enough on the defensive end to be capable of winning on the road. Iowa 71, Penn State 66.

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