No. 16 Penn State at No. 18 Iowa Preview: Lions Head to Hostile Carver-Hawkeye Arena

By Craig Fritz on February 29, 2020 at 8:00 am
Iowa Hawkeyes Center Luka Garza
© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes
19-9 (10-7 Big Ten)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
Noon EST – Saturday, February 29
Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Iowa City, IA
Watch Info: BTN
KenPom Rank: 22
Read: Nittany Lions Hold on Against Rutgers

Following a nail-biting finish on Wednesday night, The Nittany Lions (21-7, 11-6) head to Iowa City to face the Big Ten's best offense in the Iowa Hawkeyes (19-9, 10-7). Since facing off in a thriller Philadelphia's Palestra on Jan. 4, both teams are 9-5 with uneven play of late. 

One thing on Iowa's side is its home dominance. The Hawkeyes join Maryland as the only B1G teams with perfect conference records at home.

The Nittany Lions will likely once again wait for word on whether second-leading scorer Myreon Jones can play. He's missed six straight games, and while Penn State is 4-2 over that stretch, his absence has become shockingly noticeable during the last three games. Without Jones' smooth scoring stroke, Penn State has mired through huge offensive droughts since blowing out Northwestern two weeks ago.

Projected Starters
Penn State IOWA
G Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Jr. G Connor McCaffrey- 6'5" - So.
G Myles Dread - 6'4" - So. G Joe Toussaint - 6'0" - Fr.
F Seth Lundy - 6'6" - Fr. G CJ Fredrick - 6'3" - Fr.
F Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Sr. G Joe Wieskamp - 6'6" - So. 
F John Harrar - 6'9" - Jr. C Luke Garza - 6'11" - Jr.

scouting report

The Hawkeyes are unmatched offensively in the Big Ten at 78.2 points/game (6th nationally by KenPom). According to Bart Torvik's player rater, Luka Garza is far and away the most effective offensive player in the conference. He absolutely menaced Penn State in January, AND Iowa hit a season-high 11 three-pointers in that game. If that happens again, it's going to be a blow-out city in Iowa City.

To add fuel to the fire, Iowa will welcome back from injury freshman guard CJ Fredrick who shoots a casual 47% from distance. He last played on Feb. 13. Iowa has been so good at home that it hasn't had a single one-possession margin of victory over the entire season. The Hawks closest home game was a five-point win over Rutgers.

Needless to say, the Nittany Lions will have to play some of their best defensive basketball of the year or find another gear offensively to say in this one.

Keys to the game

  • MJ Jones watch. To get right to the point, Penn State needs its best outside shooter if it wants to notch another impressive road win. A handful of threes won't get it done, the Lions need more.
  • Let Garza eat. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. The big man is going to get his, but Penn State cannot waste resources leaving Hawkeye shooters open for easy looks. Garza's three highest-scoring games on the year are 44 against Michigan, 38 against Indiana, and 34 against Penn State. Iowa lost all three games. The Nittany Lions need to force a stone-cold shooting afternoon from the rest of the Hawkeyes.
  • More minutes for Lundy and Watkins. Pat Chambers got about 15 minutes out of Seth Lundy and Mike Watkins on Wednesday against Rutgers. Penn State needs them both fully engaged if it wants to stroll out of Iowa City with a W.

prediction

This is going to be one of the toughest games of the year for the Nittany Lions, who are clearly missing a bit of the bounce that we saw earlier in the year. MJ Jones' absence and CJ Jones' complete ineffectiveness has shortened Chambers' bench, and it's taking a toll. Lamar Stevens (60 points from passing Talor Battle) was obviously gassed down the stretch against Rutgers. If Stevens, John Harrar, and Myles Dread are forced to play huge minutes, it's not going to be pretty. If MJ Jones is still out, it's not going to be pretty. I'd love to say otherwise, but...Iowa 84 - Penn State 71.

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