Penn State hopes this is the year to go back to the NCAA Tournament. In order to do so, they need to win their fair share of games. Sunday’s contest against the Iowa Hawkeyes is one such game. The Hawks are coming off a massive loss to Eastern Illinois at home, then a surprising blowout at the hands of Nebraska last Thursday.
As you would assume, Iowa came in with a sense of desperation that only a team seeing the possibility of a postseason bid close early can have. On the other hand, a team in a funk can close down shop early and mail it in. The first half resembled a team ready to mail it in, but the second had all the makings of a team that knew they needed to get this win to avoid an insurmountable hole.
On the Penn State side, they started the half on fire. They shot 63 percent from the field, and 60% from three, as they methodically built an 18-point lead at the break. Andrew Funk had 16 points in the half, going 4-for-4 from three-point range, while Jalen Pickett had 14 points himself.
Iowa made a furious comeback in second part of the second half, however. To Penn State’s credit, they spent most of the second half fighting off the Hawkeyes’ rallies, but, with about four minutes left in the came, Iowa had one last rally in them, one that the Nittany Lions couldn’t entirely stave off, like all the ones that came before it. With 16 seconds left, Kris Murray, reminiscent of his brother last season, made an acrobatic tip in to keep Iowa in it for one more possession. The Hawks proceeded to foul Andrew Funk, who had to make the front end of a 1-and-1 in order to ice the game, but was unable to make the first shot, thus giving the Hawkeyes one more chance.
As Iowa set up its offense, Seth Lundy made the play of the game, and perhaps the play of these Nittany Lions’ hopes, as he read Tony Perkins and Kris Murray perfectly, deciding to let Murray loose and instead going for the ball, which Perkins tried to pass back to Murray at the top of the key, only to be met by the welcoming hands of Lundy at the other end. Lundy made both free throws, and Penn State is now 2-1 in Big Ten play.
Players of the Game
Andrew Funk - 20 points, 1 rebound
Funk was the biggest reason behind Penn State’s massive lead in the first half, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first. He added another four, two of which were at the line, to keep Penn State ahead.
Jalen Pickett - 26 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal
Another typical night for the do everything guard. Pickett led the team in points, and didn’t even play all 40 minutes this time around!
Evan Mahaffey - 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal
Evan Mahaffey was all over the place in this game, and while his scoring output is modest, his impact in the game was felt through and through.
Evan has arrived - Remember a young guy named Josh Reaves? That’s the kind of game Mahaffey had on Sunday. He made life a living hell for opposing Hawks, and was anywhere and everywhere all at once, earning himself 18 minutes of play. Don’t be surprised if that playing time keeps increasing as his production improves.
OUCH! - Myles Dread banged himself against an Iowa player, and went out with what seemed a like a lower leg injury. He came back a couple of times, but each time had to quickly come out due to pain. Here’s to hoping it’s nothing serious and he doesn’t miss time.
I don’t like it - Penn State had gotten in the habit of milking clock when they get up big, which leads opponents to unleash the hounds. It has nearly cost them several times already, and, if this keeps happening, some team down the road will complete the comeback.
Penn State takes its talents to Ann Arbor, as they travel to Michigan on Wednesday. The Wolverines just dropped the hammer on Maryland, presumably taking their frustrations out on the Terps after their own dumbfounding defeat against Central Michigan. Game tips off at 7:00 PM Eastern on the B1G Network