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Iowa 90, Penn State 79: The Skid Continues

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Penn State will limp into Washington, D.C. sporting a five-game losing streak after getting trounced on the road at Iowa.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A Penn State team reeling from four consecutive losses and looking to end its regular season on a winning note found themselves having to tangle with a red-hot Iowa team squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble and honoring former Sudanese refugee-turned-hoops superstar Peter Jok on Senior Day.

As you might suspect, things did not turn out well for the Lions: Using a barrage of three pointers (the Hawkeyes nailed 12 of their 21 attempts), second chance points (Iowa had 27 to PSU’s 11), and a deep bench (Iowa’s bench outscored PSU’s by a whopping 42-14), the Hawkeyes cruised to a double-digit lead by halftime and at one point in the second half led by as many as 24 points before letting their foot off the gas, which allowed Penn State to make the final score look not nearly as awful as this game went. Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins were the lone bright spots for PSU, leading the way with 25 and 17 points each. Watkins also had a double-double by notching 12 rebounds to go with his 17 points.

The loss solidifies Penn State’s #13 seed in this coming week’s Big Ten Tournament in Washington, D.C., although their opponent is still pending as Michigan and Nebraska have not yet played (as of the time this post is being written).

Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 71 1.07 50.0% 35.5% 19.7% 47.3%
Nebraska - 0.94 39.5% 34.0% 11.3% 13.2%

Both teams shot the ball reasonably well (PSU was 44% from the floor while Iowa was 48%.), rebounding was fairly even, and turnovers were identical. The Hawkeyes did have seven more trips to the line than PSU (19 to 12) and were even more efficient when they got there (84% to 75% of free throws made). The 42-14 bench scoring and 27-11 second chance points advantages are what really helped Iowa turn what on paper, should have been a tight game into a relative blowout.

Player of the Game - Mike Watkins (17 points, 12 rebounds)

It was highly tempting to put Josh Reaves in here, especially since he nailed 3-of-4 three-point attempts and shot 10-for-12 from the floor, overall. However, Watkins was not only a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor, but was also a consistent force down low and one of the few positives to take away from today’s game.

Random Observations

  • Jok Jams - As mentioned before, today was Senior Day for Iowa guard Peter Jok, who despite sitting on the bench for most of the first half due to foul trouble, still went on to score 21 points in his final game in Iowa City. Please take the time to read this wonderful story from the Des Moines Register about his journey from fleeing war-torn Sudan to becoming a college hoops star, you won’t regret it.
  • All The Technicals - A visibly frustrated Pat Chambers picked up a technical foul late in the first half, which seemed inevitable after several shaky calls from the officials in which fouls were whistled as ‘jump balls’ and vice versa. Later in the game, Tony Carr was T’ed up after visibly expressing frustration at the officials. Losing skids take a toll on one’s psyche and today it came out in the open.
  • Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes - Regardless what happens in the Big Ten Tournament, expect to see some departures this offseason, and I’m not just talking about a couple of seldom-used bench players transferring. Pat Chambers is safe for at least another year, but he may be forced to make the same difficult decisions with some of his staff members, similar to those that James Franklin made following a disappointing four-game losing streak to end his second year as PSU’s football coach. Stay tuned.

Up Next

The Nittany Lions will play on Wednesday in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament in our nation’s capital at the Verizon Center. If Michigan beats Nebraska, then Nebraska will be the opponent. If Nebraska beats Michigan, Ohio State will be the opponent. Either way, tip-off is at 4:30 PM ET on ESPN2.