After losing a winnable game, one they led 11-0 five minutes into it, the Nittany Lions look to close their back-to-back road week with a win against another team coming off a disappointing loss.
Unlike the Nittany Lions, the Iowa Hawkeyes have lost three of the past four games. Defense has been the Achilles heel on each, but more concerning has been who the losses have come to. Losing on the road to Virginia Tech is not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but losing Louisiana and South Dakota State, however, is.*
So now, both teams find themselves in must-win mode if they want to make any noise in the NCAA Tournament selection process. Unlike Penn State, however, Iowa still has Iowa State and Colorado to boost its non-conference resume.
Scouting the Opposition
Continuing the similarities for the two teams, Iowa lost very few pieces from last season. They remain one of the youngest teams in the country as a result. However, of what they did lose, Peter Jok was their most prolific scorer. That role has been filled out by committee, with Isaiah Moss, Jordan Bohannon, and Jack Nunge all shooting over 40% from three so far (Nunge only has 15 attempts, however).
Mike Watkins will have his work cut out for him trying to contain the aforementioned Nunge as well as Luka Garza, both of Iowa’s inside forces on offense. Last but not least, Cordell Pemsl is Iowa’s version of Lamar Stevens, doing just about everything except shooting threes.
What to watch for
Strength vs strength - Iowa is rated 61st in adjusted offensive efficiency, while Penn State is 20th in ajdusted defense. Which side of the ball will prevail?
Iowa is a wounded animal - Having lost three of their last four games, Iowa is looking to avoid having their season spiral out of control before the month of November is even over**. Can Penn State put the final nail in the coffin, or will the Nittany Lions face a team in desperation mode?
...so is Penn State - Like Iowa, the sense of urgency is likely high with the Nittany Lions. Can they play loose again, like they did against seven of the past eight opponents?
It’s all about the threes - How they handle Iowa’s inevitable flurry of threes will will dictate most of this game. The Lions will need to have short memories and focus of playing their brand of ball for the game to go their way.
No more heroes - In their two losses, Penn State fell back to old habits in forgetting to share the ball down the stretch. If they find themselves in the same situation in this game, it will be imperative that they don’t try to force things themselves, and continue to find the best shots instead.
I would feel much better about this game had the Nittany Lions beat NC State. Right now, I’m afraid Iowa’s offense is going to be too much for the Lions, but what will keep the game close is the fact that Iowa can’t seem to be able to defend anyone. Iowa 78, Penn State 76
*These are not terrible teams by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re still two mid-majors.
**Yes, I know this game is on December 2nd.