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Penn State Shocks No. 4 Iowa, 79-75

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The Nittany Lions stunned the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes in State College and turned the conference's title race on its head.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It seemed like another typical night in State College against a highly-ranked opponent. Penn State began the evening with turnovers and their usual poor shooting. Then, something clicked - Shep Garner hit on back-to-back threes, Donovon Jack, the unquestioned star of the game, began producing the best moments of his PSU career. Most importantly, shots were falling for a team ranked near the absolute bottom of the country in three-point shooting.

Penn State made seven of their 14 first-half three-point attempts, and the confidence flowed from there. Garner set the tone, connecting on his first four triples. Offense has been the challenge all season for this squad, but the ball movement was a far cry from a second half performance in Lincoln that could easily be described as "not basketball." Pat Chambers was adamant in the lead up to this game that his team was the one that beat Indiana, not at all the team that was at the mercy of Andrew White III. It's certainly hard to refute that now.

Iowa's stars had their moments - Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok were their excellent selves, combining for 47 of the Hawkeyes' 75 points, but they had little help. Seniors Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury had six points each, and the latter was eaten alive by Jack.

The Nittany Lions were valiant (and physical) on defense, holding the nation's 9th most efficient offense within arms length of a lead for the entire second half. Brandon Taylor, Payton Banks and Josh Reaves played down the stretch with four fouls each, with only Reaves fouling out. A pair of contested heave threes from Jok and some nervy inbounding kept things tight until the bitter end, but Chambers' squad held strong at the line when it mattered.

Speaking of the head coach, Chambers apologized to Iowa head coach and likely B1G coach of the year Fran McCaffery for his team's performance in Iowa City two weeks ago. How time flies.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 70 1.13 55.4% 32.4% 21.4% 39.3
Iowa - 1.07 49.0% 32.4% 18.6% 68.6

Iowa actually won two and drew another of the four factor battles - and significantly won the battle at the line - and didn't shoot all that much worse than Penn State. What I'm trying to say is that this doesn't make a lick of sense. The late threes from Uthoff and Jok certainly helped Iowa's effective field goal percentage, but it's not as though Penn State shot all that much better than the Hawkeyes to make up for the discrepancy at the line. But hey, this is college basketball. It doesn't have to make sense to make you happy.

Player of the Game - Donovon Jack: 19 pts, 5 reb, 2 blk

The stat line doesn't drive home how influential the senior was. Jack has developed a reputation, deserved or not, as a soft, mechanical player prone to fouling. He did pick up four fouls in his 22 minutes, but his post play was outstanding on both ends of the floor, leading to a team-high and career B1G-high 19 points. His game was pretty well encapsulated by this sequence:

Random Observations

  • Washington's instant maturation - Back home in Ohio to witness the birth of his child, the Devin Foster's poise on the ball was sorely missed for 35 minutes. Isaiah Washington saw most of the extra minutes and the redshirt freshman had a rough start and middle to his game. Just 1-7 from the field with five turnovers, Washington looked downright out of place. But as the game wore on, the Williamsport-native grew into the game, taking Gesell off the dribble on two separate trips and drawing fouls at a juncture where Penn State was desperate for points. He knocked down all four freebies, and stood out on defense the rest of the night.
  • Reaves' influence - The true freshman had his foul issues, but his disrupting presence on the wings helped set the tone. He's not back to his full pre-mono stamina, nor does he have the finishing ability that will be called upon next year, but he does the little things so well for such an inexperienced player. His tip to Taylor off a missed Washington jumper late on was a pivotal play, and one that he won't get credit for in the stat sheet.
  • Extend Pat Chambers again - Ok, not for realsies. This season's extreme highs mean about as much as its lowest lows considering the roster turnover that's coming this summer, and Chambers will rightfully be judged based on the next two seasons due to the influx of talent headed his way. Still, it's a hell of a result - on par with the Trey Burke game in 2013, minus the schadenfreude - and if you're looking for a reason to believe in Chambers, well, here you go.
  • (But really though, if Sandy Barbour decided to give Pat two more years you would not hear any complaints here.)

Looking Ahead

Penn State had issues carrying momentum to the road after beating Indiana, but it's in an insult to Nebraska to compare the relatively milquetoast Huskers to the flaming garbage barge that is Rutgers basketball. The Scarlet Knights are the worst team in major college basketball and they will be without their best player, Corey Sanders, who was suspended earlier this week. More on the Eddie Jordan All-Stars on Friday.