Just like that, Penn State has soared out of the Big Ten basement and won two conference games in a row. After a strong first half that saw Penn State hold a 14-point halftime lead, Iowa mounted a comeback behind a barrage of Matt Gatens' threes. PSU was out of rhythm on offense in the second half, but Tim Frazier, Jermaine Marshall, and even Jon Graham made big shots down the stretch to hold off the Hawkeyes.
I mentioned in the preview that Penn State needed to attack Iowa inside. They came out strong for the first time in a while doing exactly that and built a 10-3 lead early thanks to some Jon Graham put backs. But then they felt the need to miss 3 consecutive three-pointers and Iowa was right back in it. Once PSU went back to the basket, they blew open a 25-12 lead thanks to a 10-0 run with 8 of those points coming in the paint.
The first half damage was done with a hindered Tim Frazier. After scoring 4 early points, Tim picked up his 2nd foul just 11 minutes into the game, which led to like 20 substitutions the rest of the half. Chambers did a good job subbing Frazier in for offense and out for defense when he could, and Matt Glover also did a good job running the show while Frazier was out.
The second half was a different story on offense. Cammeron Woodyard picked up his 4th foul early and had to sit for 10 minutes. He was never able to get in a rhythm after scoring 12 first half points. He actually didn't score again until the last free throw of the game, and then trolled all students by missing the Big Mac clincher. However, Tim Frazier picked up the slack, scoring 14 points in the second period on just 7 shots. Jermaine Marshall also hung in there and hit a huge three with 1:45 to go after shooting just 1 for 6 prior in the half.Despite cutting a 16-point lead all the way down to 2, Iowa only had one possession in the 2nd half where they had the chance to tie. They might've had another chance if Jon Graham didn't troll the hell out of the scouting report. The 34% free throw shooter calmly sank 2 critical free throws in a one-and-one situation with 24 seconds left. Iowa wasn't expecting to foul until PSU had to in-bound the ball to Graham. It was a smart play by the Hawkeyes, but Graham made them pay. He finished with a career-best 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, and he didn't miss a single shot all night. We can only hope Graham's confidence grows with his clutch performance, and he can build on what otherwise was a mostly solid performance. There were a few times Jon was out of his game trying to do too much in the 2nd half, but PSU desperately needed any kind of inside presence against the zone. Graham was trying too hard, but I was surprised he only ended with 2 turnovers. He is only going to get better.
According to the four factors, Penn State won this game in the turnover battle. Nearly everything else is even across the board. Neither team shot well, both were effective on the offensive glass, and both teams got themselves to the free throw line. Penn State had four less turnovers, which in a two-possession game is a big difference. I was disappointed in the foul trouble PSU put themselves in. With Frazier and Woodyard forced to sit for periods of time, they weren't able to stay in rhythm and keep PSU's offense flowing. Frazier finished with 18 points, 4 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, and just 2 turnovers, while Woodyard had 13 points in just 19 minutes.
Defensively, Penn State was pretty good for the game, but it is never good to give up 40 second half points. They did a poor job of finding Gatens once he got hot. Aaron White was also a problem, as he produced a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Luckily for the Nits, Bryce Cartwright couldn't go for the Hawkeyes after turning his ankle in practice this week. He was a big difference in the first game.
The Nittany Lions have now won 4 Big Ten games, more than I thought they would this season. All hail Pat Chambers! Unfortunately, Penn State gets to travel to Madison on Sunday. Fun times at the Kohl Center await.