After a COVID-19 pause within the Minnesota program prompted a postponement of Penn State's midweek matchup with the Golden Gophers, the Nittany Lions return to the court for the first time in nearly a week on Saturday.
Penn State (8-7, 3-4 Big Ten) hits the road to take on the high-scoring Iowa Hawkeyes (13-5, 3-4 Big Ten) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Iowa City.
In its last game, the Nittany Lions fell in a defensive battle at Ohio State, 61-56. Seth Lundy's absence was noticeable as Penn State's offense struggled to generate much of anything. The defense kept the Lions in the game, but it wasn't enough to move above .500 in Big Ten play.
Iowa is also looking to respond from a tough loss. The Hawkeyes vaunted offense, which ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (83.9 ppg), was no where to be found in a 48-46 loss at Rutgers. Fran McCaffery's team shot just 25.9 percent from the field, including a a dreadful 15.4 percent from 3-point range.
|G Sam Sessoms - 6'0 - Sr.||G Jordan Bohannon - 6'1 - Sr.|
|G Jalen Pickett - 6'4 - Sr.||G Joe Toussaint - 6'0 - Jr.|
|F Seth Lundy - 6'6 - Jr.||F Patrick McCaffery - 6'9 - So.|
|F Greg Lee - 6'9 - Sr.||F Keegan Murray - 6'8 - So.|
|F John Harrar - 6'9 - Sr.||F Filip Rebraca - 6'9 - Sr.|
The biggest question mark for Penn State entering this game is the status of Seth Lundy. He missed last Sunday's loss to Ohio State because of an undisclosed reason and was listed as day-to-day by Micah Shrewsberry this week.
Penn State has won in Iowa City just once in the past 21 years and just five times ever.
Iowa leads the all-time series 32-18, with the two teams playing at an even 5-5 mark in the last eight matchups. The Hawkeyes won the lone game last season, 74-68 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
This one's not too complex. Hawkeyes forward Keegan Murray is really, really good. The Big Ten's leading scorer this season (23.3 ppg), Murray has exploded into stardom this season after program legend Luka Garza departed for the NBA. Murray is also the nation's second-leading scorer.
Murray has been incredibly efficient, shooting nearly 55 percent from the floor. He's also shooting just well enough from three (36 percent) to keep defenders honest. He uses his length (6-foot-8) and wingspan (6-11) really well and is a committed defender and rebounder (team-leading 8.41 rpg).
He's skyrocketed up NBA draft boards and is currently projected to be a late lottery pick by most mock drafts.
Jordan Bohannon is back for the Hawkeyes and remains an integral part of their offense. Bohannon takes more threes than just about anyone in the conference (112 attempts and counting) and is third on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg). He's not shooting at quite the levels he did in season's past, entering Sunday's game at a 36 percent clip from three, but can knock them down from anywhere at any given moment.
Keegan isn't the only Murray of note for the Hawkeyes, as his brother Kris has also been a key contributor for Iowa this season. He averages 9.71 points per game off the bench, and erupted for 29 in the win over Indiana just a few weeks ago.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Make this another defensive battle. In their 13 wins this season, Iowa has averaged 90.8 points. In their four losses? Just 66 points. The Nittany Lions are going to want to execute a similar game plan to the one Rutgers employed the other night when the Scarlet Knights defeated the Hawkeyes. This is a classic strength on strength, defense versus offense battle.
- Lundy on Keegan Murray. Lundy's return to the court is big from an offensive standpoint for Penn State, but it might be even bigger defensively. He's guarded the opposing team's best player almost every game this season and he's done it effectively. Lundy has developed into one of the better defensive players in the Big Ten. If he plays, he'll probably be tasked with guarding Keegan Murray. Not an easy assignment by any means, but one Lundy has shown he his apt to handle.
- Controlling the tempo. Iowa wants to play fast. Penn State has shown it's much better at playing at a slower pace. Not slow, but slower. The Hawkeyes utilize their fast pace to turn opponents over, leading the conference in steals and turnover margin. If the Nittany Lions are careless with the ball and turn it over at a high rate like other games this season, this one is going to be played at Iowa's pace.
Much depends on Lundy's availability. If he's good to go, Penn State has a great shot to win this game. If he doesn't, the Nittany Lions just don't have the depth to pull off a win without him. I'd expect a bounce-back performance from both of these teams in wake off difficult shooting nights the last time out. Like I mentioned above, Penn State just can't afford for this game to be played at a pace that sees a score in the 80's necessary to win the game.
Prediction: Iowa 82, Penn State 67