It might be time to start taking this team, and Mike Rhoades, seriously.
Like against Indiana, Penn State survived a sloppy early showing thanks to sublime three-point shooting. Jameel Brown, in particular, was excellent again and made three triples in the first nine minutes of action. He spearheaded a 17-4 run to put the Nittany Lions up by as many as 10 points in the first half.
While Penn State’s offensive surge obviously was a huge part of its first-half run, Iowa’s poor shooting did not help. The Hawkeyes went through a stretch of more than five and a half minutes without scoring.
While he was again absent from the starting lineup, Kanye Clary headed to the scorers' table about halfway through the first half — his first appearance in three games. He added six points in 12 first-half minutes.
While Iowa was able to stabilize offensively, Penn State still headed into the locker room with an eight-point lead. It forced 10 Hawkeye turnovers and shot 52% from the field in the first half, with more than half of its shots coming from beyond the arc. But the Nittany Lions had nine of their own turnovers, still leaving a bit to be desired offensively.
Things began to regress to the mean early in the second half, and Iowa tied things up near the 14-minute mark. Penn State went on a shooting drought for more than three minutes, fueled by poor shot selection and creation. Suddenly, we had a ball game.
Not every game has to be a blowout, right?
The three-point well started to dry up for Penn State as it missed four of its first five triples of the second half. Iowa focused on making its money in the paint, and the Nittany Lions paid the price. When you live and die by the three-pointer, sometimes you die hard when the ball stops bouncing your way.
But, living and dying by the three-pointer can get very fun, very fast. It felt like Iowa had sucked the energy out of the BJC, but triples by Zach Hicks and Ace Baldwin suddenly put Penn State back on top.
While the Nittany Lions’ perimeter shooters continued to hit their shots down the stretch, Qudus Wahab & Co. had their hands full near the rim. For every big shot Penn State hit, the Hawkeyes had a bit of bully-ball to counter. Iowa’s Ben Krikke eclipsed 20 points and had his way in the paint.
And then, the Ace Baldwin takeover started. He came up with clutch steals on back-to-back possessions and converted on the offensive end of the floor both times, giving Penn State an eight-point lead with 98 seconds to play. He hit a ridiculous dagger triple with under a minute left and secured the win for the Nittany Lions. Iowa finished with 18 turnovers.
Player of the Game
Ace Baldwin, Jr. - 22 points, 3-for-4 3 PT FG, 9-9 FT. 6 assists, 4 steals
Clutch, clutch, clutch. Another all-out effort from Baldwin on both ends of the floor was the difference-maker for Penn State. He made the biggest plays when they mattered most down the stretch and solidified himself as the Nittany Lions’ best player — even amid Kanye Clary’s return to action.
- Don’t look now - Penn State has now won three games in a row and sits at .500 in Big Ten play. It has eight games left to build a resume. Draw your own conclusions.
- Offensive goaltending - Iowa’s Tony Perkins nearly silenced the BJC with a monster jam, but Wahab contested his attempt and the ball slammed off back iron. He actually ended up being called for offensive goaltending after getting caught up above the rim’s cylinder. You don’t see that every day.
- High knees - No comment on his crew’s performance tonight, but Jeffrey Anderson put on a show:
High knees at Iowa vs Penn State pic.twitter.com/twHOz5QzzI— Jeffrey Anderson Fan Account (@highkneesref) February 9, 2024
Penn State (12-11, 6-6) will travel to Evanston on Sunday, February 11, seeking revenge against Northwestern (16-7, 7-5). Tipoff will be at 1:00 PM EST on the Big Ten Network. It will be the biggest sporting event of the day.