The 2019-2020 basketball season has been one of the best in program history for the Penn State Nittany Lions. One of the best moments of the season thus far was the Nittany Lions defeating the Iowas Hawkeyes by a score of 89-86 at a rocking Palestra Center in Philadelphia in a top-25 match up back in January. On Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lions will look to repeat that game’s effort as they go for the season sweep of the Hawkeyes.
Sweeping the Hawkeyes will not be easy to do, however. Not only is it difficult to beat the same team twice in a season, Iowa is coming off a loss against Michigan State and will be looking for a bounce back win on Saturday afternoon. One thing that is for certain is that this should be another exciting match up between two of the Big Ten’s best teams.
Scouting the opposition
For the Hawkeyes it all starts with center Luka Garza. The junior superstar is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate and one of the best players in college basketball.
Garza is averaging 23.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. On top of being an inside presence, Garza is also a threat as a shooter as he is shooting 36.1% from behind the arc this season. In the first meeting between these two teams Garza led all scorers with 34 points while pulling in 12 rebounds as he nearly carried the Hawkeyes to a victory over the Nittany Lions.
While Garza is the straw that stirs the Hawkeyes drink, he is far from their lone offensive weapon. A team does not average 78.2 points per game simply due to one player. Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, Ryan Kriener, and Connor McCaffery are all shooting better than 31% from behind the arc this season.
Fredrick’s availability, however, is up in the air. The sharpshooter is shooting 46.7% from three this season, but he has missed the last three games due to an ankle injury. Head coach Fran McCaffery said he believes Fredrick will return on Saturday, but it will remain to be seen if he will be at 100% or not. It will also be over two weeks since he played last.
The Hawkeyes will look to play fast and the Nittany Lions will need to be ready to match that. For as strong as they are offensively, Iowa has had their problems on defense this season. They are allowing 72.1 points per game which is 262nd nationally.
What to watch for
Myreon Jones watch continues - Penn State’s second leading scorer has now missed six games in a row with what has simply been called an illness. Myreon Jones has traveled with the team to their last two road games and partook some pre-game activities before Wednesday night’s victory over Rutgers. Will Nittany Lion fans finally see Jones and his 14.1 PPG return to the lineup? Hopefully.
Iowa at home - Like most of the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes have been nearly impossible to beat at home this season. Iowa is 15-2 overall at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which includes a perfect 8-0 home record in Big Ten play. Can the Nittany Lions become the first Big Ten foe this season to leave Iowa City with a win?
Watkins v. Garza: Round 2 - As we covered above, what Iowa wants to do runs through Garza. If the Nittany Lions are going to leave Iowa City with a victory on Saturday afternoon, Mike Watkins will need to bring his A-game. Big Mike will have to be at his absolute best both offensively and defensively against Garza.
Penn State picked up a much needed victory when they snapped their two game losing streak by taking down Rutgers on Wednesday night. That win will look even more important after the Nittany Lions come up short on Saturday afternoon. Iowa 81, Penn State 76