Penn State played one of the most exciting games of the Pat Chambers' era on Saturday afternoon, taking down No. 23 Iowa in an 89-86 shootout. The day belonged to Penn State's bench, most notably Izaiah Brockington and Curtis Jones, who contributed 23 and 16 respectively of the reserve's 46 points.
|1st half||2nd half||Final|
It was a defensive chess match early, with the Nittany Lions playing their usual brand of high-energy defense to frustrate the Hawkeyes. On the other end, Pat Chambers' squad couldn't crack the Iowa zone, leading to a backbreaking three-minute scoring drought midway through the first half where it looked like Iowa could pull away.
Thankfully, Philadelphia native Seth Lundy began to wake things up a bit, hitting a mid-range jumper and three on back to back possessions. Lamar Stevens began finding his rhythm as we approached halftime, scoring six of his 11 first-half points in the final four minutes. A Myles Dread turnaround jumper as time expired gave the Nittany Lions a 39-38 lead to close the half.
With Stevens and Mike Watkins relegated to the bench with foul trouble early in the second period, Brockington began to take over. The sophomore attacked the rim consistently, en route to his team-high 23 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting. It's rare that Penn State is able to survive without it's two best players, but Brockington breathed a life into the team we haven't seen in some time.
On the other end, Watkins' absence looked like a death sentence against Iowa's Luka Garza. The big man dropped a game-high 34 points, and according to the officials could do no wrong on both ends of the floor.
Curtis Jones came up with big shot after big shot to keep Penn State in it, with 11 of his 16 points coming in the second half. None was bigger, however, than his 25-foot triple to give Penn State a 77-76 lead in the final 90 seconds. His performance allowed the Nittany Lions to stay within striking distance with Stevens on the bench with four fouls.
With about five minutes to go a rested Stevens and Watkins settled back in, putting an end to the terror Garza was committing on offense and spacing out the floor much better.
A beautiful alley-oop from Dread to Watkins gave the Nittany Lions lead with under two minutes to go, sending the Palestra into a frenzy. A Stevens floater on the following possession forced the Hawkeyes to turn to foul Myles Dread to end the game, with the sophomore hitting six free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.
This is the type of win Penn State basketball needed to prove they are for real. Usually, when Penn State's two best players have been in foul trouble, it serves as a death sentence, but this team is built differently. Chambers struck gold on the transfer market with Brockington and Jones, giving Penn State depth that rivals anyone's in the conference.
Next up for Penn State is a road clash with Rutgers on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. The Scarlet Knights are no pushovers, as the Nittany Lions go for their second straight win over a top-50 KenPom opponent.