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No. 11 Iowa 74, Penn State 68: Another Excruciating Loss

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As always, Penn State gave us hope, only to take it away.

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

On Sunday morning, I wrote about how difficult it was to write these articles and watch these games as Penn State choked away game after game. It feels like every time I write one of these I write about the mounting number of close losses Penn State keeps piling up after having some sort of lead at some point in the second half.

Yet, for this game, the plan was simple: Watch the Nittany Lions put up a valiant effort for the first five minutes of the game, watch Iowa drain three after three, and watch as Iowa turns a 2-point lead in the first five minutes of the game into a 22-point lead by the time the first buzzer sounded. I would then, comfortably, turn the game off, do some errands check the final stats, and fill in the blanks of a sure blowout.

That almost happened exactly as described, as Iowa opened up a 13-point lead early in the second half. What I didn’t expect was Penn State deciding they’re still the team that can play with just about anyone in the conference, and instead of rolling over and letting the Hawkeyes take control, the Nittany Lions played their way back into a competitive first half. In fact, it was so competitive that they took a 5-point lead into halftime.

I was not ready to lose hope though. I was confident the Lions would fall back into old habits. They’d fight, for a little bit, then Iowa would surely take over once the all too familiar shooting slump hit the Lions at the worst possible time. While the Lions slumped, the Hawkeyes would continue to shoot lights out, and yet another second-half lead would turn into the kind of loss we’ve all come to know and love from these Lions.

The slump surely came. The Lions found themselves in a four-minute scoring drought where shot after shot refused to fall. Pretty typical. What’s not typical, however, was Iowa proceeded to have their own four minute scoring drought in that same span, one only broken after Luka Garza made a basket to break Roy Marble’s old scoring record.

That little bit of life was all Iowa needed, as the Hawkeyes proceeded to get out of their slump and score the next six points to build the kind of lead we thought they’d have all along. The Lions, on the other hand, turned that four-minute drought into an six-minute drought, and just like all the other games before, a great opportunity slipped away, one minute at a time.

Four Factors Analysis

Nothing here is too surprising. Penn State turned Iowa over well above their season average. The Nittany Lions scored the ball above what they’ve been doing as of late, but ultimately facing off against Luka Garza means their exceptional output inside was going to be hard to replicate. It also didn’t help that the Lions put Iowa in the bonus quite early in both halves, while also missing a slew of free throws themselves.

Players Of The Game

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. In their best games, it’s quite tough to choose just one player to highlight in this section. Do I go with Jamari Wheeler, whose three-pointers and consistent hustle kept the Nittany Lions in the game? Do I go with Myles Dread, who has finally found his shot and is the kind of threat we expected at the beginning of the season? Do we go with Sam Sessoms, whose assists and drives to the basket kept Iowa all out of sorts? What about Trent Buttrick, who played a great overall game? When Penn State plays their game, everyone plays exceptionally well.

Random Observations

Foul Trouble - Penn State played quite well for what was expected of them coming in. The one thing that kept this from being an excellent game was the fouls mounting up and preventing Penn State’s players from seeing the floor. John Harrar being key among them.

No one can doubt their fight - The identity of this team is their fight. They’ve had so many opportunities to throw int he towel, and they just don’t.

Those darned scoring droughts - In every loss, there’s been a patented scoring drought that made everything fall apart. This game was no different.

Looking Ahead

The Lions stay out west as they travel to Nebraska to make up the previously postponed game. Penn State will be looking for revenge, as the Huskers stole one away exactly one week ago. Tipoff is at 8 PM Eastern on the B1G Network.