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Penn State 89, Iowa 86: It Was A Penn State Party In The Palestra

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It was a tight game with an electric atmosphere.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Penn State Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Izaiah Brockington scored a career-high 23 points when Penn State needed the offensive boost. Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins each spent significant portions of the day on the bench with foul trouble. The bench for Penn State was able to hang in with the Hawkeyes, scoring 46 points while Watkins and Stevens were only able to contribute 20 points on the day.

Mike Watkins got his first foul while guarding Luka Garza on a play in transition, trailing from behind on a fast break two minutes into the game. Pat Chambers didn’t wait long to bring in John Harrar, as the backup center came into the game at the next whistle. The teams were tied at 9 at the first break.

Chambers was able to get Lamar Stevens a couple of extra minutes of rest, bringing in Seth Lundy short of the next break. The teams were tied at 19 with 10:43 to play in the half.

Depth was on the Lions’ side and was needed inside a very hot Palestra during a fast-paced game. The players were sweating more than usual and there was a lot of dampness on the floor as a result. Curtis Jones had 5 points and Izaiah Brockington had 8 off the bench in the first half. Jones also had this nice block on a shot attempt by Garza, who thought he had a layup.

Seth Lundy and John Harrar took the floor after the under-8 timeout with the Lions trailing 23-19. Lundy quickly hit an elbow jumper to break a 3-minute scoring drought for Penn State. Harrar then got 2 consecutive rebounds and Lundy got an offensive rebound and took the ball out for a three and hit it. Just like that the Lions were up 25-24 with Watkins and Stevens getting additional rest on the bench.

Mike Watkins got his second foul with 6:41 before the half and went back to the bench with just 9 minutes played in the first half, 0 points, a block and 2 rebounds. Myles Dread got his first basket of the game after missing his first 3 attempts. It was a great hustle play. Harrar tipped the ball cleanly away from Garza, then Stevens saved the ball to Dread, who took care of it from there.

The shot brought the Palestra to life and propelled Penn State on to a run that forced Iowa to call timeout with 4:02 to go, down 33-27. The lead got to 8 before Luka Garza got a basket to break the run.

Lamar Stevens got his second foul with two minutes to play before the half so he joined Watkins on the bench. Penn State got 18 points from the bench players in the first half, but the Hawkeyes took advantage this time the two stars were off the court.

Iowa went on a 9-0 run, wiping out the lead until Myles Dread hit a shot off an offensive rebound to get the Lions to the locker room up 39-38.

Lamar Stevens picked up his third foul 58 seconds into the second half and went to the bench, Izaiah Brockington came in and the Lions went with a smaller lineup. Mike Watkins got his third foul while guarding Garza with 17:37 to play and he joined Stevens on the bench.

Izaiah Brockington scored 8 points to keep Penn State in the game in the opening minutes as Stevens and Watkins were unable to contribute. Jamari Wheeler made a layup, then a steal and pass for a bucket by Seth Lundy. The Lions led 59-56 with 13:25 to go, able to hang on without their senior leaders.

Luka Garza scored 5 straight points as Iowa took the lead back at the under-12 stoppage. Lamar Stevens got his 4th foul on a charge drawn by Garza on the first possession after the timeout, then Garza had a dunk on the next trip down the court. Stevens went to the bench with Iowa up 4.

Seth Lundy got an offensive rebound and took a hard knee to the inside of his knee with 9:52 to play, Iowa up 66-61. There was a brief stoppage while the freshman Philadelphia native was down on the court but he was able to get up and walk into the locker room. He returned to the game a few minutes later.

Penn State went with a smaller lineup, using Mike Watkins and four guards, and worked well enough to keep within striking range with Stevens on the bench. Iowa led 70-66 with 7:55 to play.

Down 6 with 6 minutes to play, Lamar Stevens came back into the game. Curtis Jones hit a huge 3-point shot to cut the lead in half and then a layup on the next trip. Stevens hit a free throw for his only point of the second half to that point. Stevens fed Watkins for a layup on the next trip, they were the first points for Watkins in the game. It was Iowa leading by 2 at the under-4 break.

Curtis Jones hit a 3-point shot and Penn State led 77-76 with three minutes to play. Garza hit a free throw to tie the game at 79 apiece with 1:47 to go. Mike Watkins had a dunk on a lob pass from Myles Dread for a 2-point Penn State lead moments later.

Curtis Jones had a clean block and there was a scramble for the loose ball that went all the way back across half-court. After taking a long look at the monitor, the referees kept the initial call and the Lions kept the ball. Myles Dread hustled and dove to fight to win the possession.

After winding the clock down as much as possible, Lamar Stevens made a layup for a 83-79 lead and Iowa took a timeout with 41 seconds to play. Mike Watkins fouled out and Iowa hit both free throws, cutting the lead to 2.

Myles Dread was fouled with 28.9 to play and went to the line for a 1 and 1. He hit them both. Dread ended up with the ball at the next end of the court with a critical rebound, icing the game when Iowa fouled him again with 2 more makes. In all, Dread made 6 straight free throws to end the game.

Random Thoughts

  • Penn State has not played in front of a crowd so loud, cheering on their behalf, in a long time. At the end of the season a couple of years ago, the team played Michigan at home with a chance to get to the NCAA tournament in the balance. The crowd against the Wolverines on that day inside the Bryce Jordan Center was a factor for the Lions. It is likely that there will be several games this year that match that intensity. It’s going to be fun to watch and the fans inside the BJC and the team deserve the experience.
  • John Harrar, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins all had 2 fouls at the half. Luka Garza came in averaging 21.6 points per game and he had 15 through 20 minutes. It took everything that the Lions had to contain him, but they made it to the half with a lead. It was par for the course at the midway point.
  • It was impressive to watch the depth come off the bench for the Lions. Not only does Pat Chambers have ‘one of each’ to cover all five positions, but they are players that can produce.
  • Curtis Jones has been more productive than anyone could have imagined. While his numbers are solid, it’s the timing with which he seems to contribute that is amazing. When their backs are against the wall, the Lions are not afraid to let Jones take a deep three, and he has made a few this year in critical moments. Jones had 16 points and two blocks, one coming on Iowa’s last chance to score without having to send Penn State to the foul line at the end of the game.
  • Pat Chambers was interviewed on the court after the game and he had a little something to add to the idea that Penn State is a football school. Turns out we like basketball, too. Hit the volume on the video to hear Chambers, and behind him, the crowd inside the Palestra singing the Penn State Alma Mater with the team.

Up Next

The Lions will travel to Rutgers on Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. tip on the Big Ten Network. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a road win against Nebraska but will be playing without Geo Baker, who broke his thumb earlier this week in practice.

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