Eighty-two points. Twenty-three assists. Twelve made three-pointers. Still no wins. Penn State's offense wasn't the problem on Wednesday night against No. 23 Iowa, but a typically reliable defense couldn't keep the Tyler Cook-less Hawkeyes from scoring at will down the stretch. The Nittany Lions had an 82-81 lead with 2:19 remaining but surrendered an 8-0 run to fall to 0-7 on the season in Big Ten play.
Unlike the previous six conference games, Penn State came out hot from the floor. Josh Reaves got the scoring started for the Lions and two three-pointers by Myles Dread forced Fran McCaffery to call an early timeout just 1:15 into the game. Dread made it three triples on the other side of the timeout.
It was a veritable three-point contest at the BJC, with Iowa hitting nine triples over the course of the first half. Penn State got seven to fall, including one from Kyle McCloskey, his first ever meaningful bucket as a Nittany Lion. Iowa used their acumen to take the lead and erase the good start by the hosts. Isaiah Moss hit three in a row at one point, contributing to Iowa gaining a 37-31 lead.
The Nittany Lions found one last push before the half though. Back to back and ones by Mike Watkins and Rasir Bolton put Penn State on top, and a 10-0 run propelled them to a 45-40 halftime lead. The 45 points by Penn State is the most they have scored in a first half all season, tied with the 45 the produced against Wright State. Dread led PSU in scoring at the half with 14 points on 5-7 shooting (4-6 from three). Bolton had his best half in recent memory, adding 12 on 5-8 shooting. He was able to successfully get to the rim, and some spectacular finishes provided a major lift for the Nittany Lions, who desperately need production from the backcourt to be competitive.
The second half opened up with the same offensive pace as the first half. Joe Wieskamp got on the board with two and-ones on back-to-back possessions, but Penn State continued to keep pace with five different Nittany Lions contributing to their first 11 points of the second half. With 15 minutes left in the game, Penn State found themselves leading 56-52 and not having to labor too much on offense - aside from Lamar Stevens, that is. The star junior had one of his worst shooting performances as a Nittany Lion, scoring just 8 points on 4-18 shooting on the night. What's worse, he went 1-15 on jumpshots including 0-5 from three.
Despite Stevens' struggles, this was undoubtedly the best Pat Chambers' offense looked during Big Ten play. The Lions distributed the ball well, and all 9 guys in white who saw the floor scored on the night. Even seldom-used senior Deivis Zemgulis managed to knock down a corner three. Iowa has an outstanding offense however and managed to keep pace. At the under 8 timeout, Penn State led by just a point, 72-71. Both teams were scoring effectively, with Iowa led by their two big men Ryan Kriener and Luka Garza. Despite relying on the 3 in the first half, the Hawkeyes dominated the paint in the second half. Kriener had 15 on the night, and Garza posted 22. The duo combined for 23 in the second half, getting to the rim often.
Unfortunately for the home team, another run by the Hawkeyes flipped the lead back in their favor. Capped off by a deep Bohannon triple, his 4th of the night at the time, the 23rd-ranked team in the nation looked set to grab another road win.
All night long, both teams have had runs that have shaped the game. Every time this happened, though, the other seemed to have one of their own. With their backs against the wall, and an 0-7 start to the Big Ten season staring them in the face, senior leader Josh Reaves stepped up and hit two enormous threes on back-to-back possessions. Stevens capped off the lightning-quick 8-0 run with a power drive to the basket to give Penn State an 80-79 lead with just over three minutes to go.
That, however, was as far as their offense would take them. Down 82-83 with 1:22 to go, Reaves threw a lob to Mike Watkins. The 6'9" forward couldn’t finish the dunk but was fouled and went to the line for the chance to tie or retake the lead. Watkins missed both though, and gave the Hawkeyes the ball back. The Nittany Lions increased their defensive pressure and got a stop, but an offensive rebound by Wieskamp of the black and yellow kept the possession alive. Bohannon found the ball and pulled up from near the Nittany Lion logo and made a dagger three to give Iowa an 86-82 lead. They would go on to finish the game on an 8-0 run and win by a score of 89-82.
All the more discouraging for the Nittany Lions was that Iowa was missing their leading scorer and rebounder tonight in Cook. The Hawkeyes responded with a balanced offensive performance, where five guys scored in double digits, led by one-time PSU recruiting target Luka Garza. Iowa shot 50 percent on the night, compared to Penn State's 47 percent. All season, Penn State's best unit has been their defense - in what has been a dreadful offensive season, the defense has kept them in so many games. Ironically, the loss tonight fell on a lack of stops in the game's final minutes.
Penn State (7-11, 0-7) will once again look to get in the win category in the Big Ten when they travel to Minneapolis to face a 13-3 Minnesota Golden Gopher squad. The Big Ten is incredibly deep this season, and Penn State has another tough test Saturday night in The Barn. The Nittany Lions will be desperately looking to end their seven-game losing streak as the nightmare rolls on.