IOWA CITY — It took longer for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team to get its motor running Wednesday night than it’s head coach and fans might like, but Coach Steve Alford’s squad finally found the right gears and continued their dominance over Penn State with a 79-63 victory inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The win was Iowa’s seventh straight over the Nittany Lions and 11th in the two team’s last 13 meetings.
Penn State held Iowa scoreless at the start of the game until Adam Haluska hit a three-pointer with 15:22 remaining in the first half. It took almost nine minutes of action for both teams to finally get into double digits. And, at one point, the Hawkeyes trailed by eight.
The Hawkeyes went into the locker room on a high note when Adam Haluska tipped in a missed shot by Tony Freeman as time expired. That bucket gave Iowa only its second lead of the half, 28-27, and capped a 9-2 run by Alford’s squad sparked by defensive play that held Penn State without a field goal for the half’s final five minutes.
Iowa hit overdrive in the second half, scoring 51 points by attacking the Penn State press, pushing the ball into the post and, after having some success inside, taking advantage of the open perimeter. The Hawkeyes shot 65 percent from the field in the final stanza – after having shot just 38 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
Haluska, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, paced the Hawkeyes with 24 points, fueled in great measure by 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. Tyler Smith added 19 points. Three times during the second half the talented freshman was successful on both his drive to the basket and the ensuing free throw.
Geary Claxton had 20 points to lead the Nittany Lions. Jamelle Cornley added 16. Guard Ben Luber fouled out of the game with no points.
Alford and the Hawkeyes will now turn their attention to the Wisconsin Badgers. Iowa and UW square off at noon Sunday in the Arena. The game is sold out and will be televised live to a national audience by CBS.
One of Alford’s concerns heading into that contest is rebounding. The Hawkeyes gave up 27 offensive boards to Penn State and 44 rebounds total. Iowa grabbed just 32.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a team give up 27 offensive rebounds,” said Alford. ” I know I haven’t had a team give up 27 offensive rebounds and win by 16, I know that hasn’t happened. Minus the board play I thought we did a really good job.”
Alford continues to appreciate the intensity that his team brings to each game and despite all of its imperfections – youth, inexperience, ect., — he knows the Hawkeyes play well in their home arena and will be “up” for the Badgers.
“We have a great winning streak going on at home in the Big Ten, and we want to keep that going. It’s going to be a great environment, with a full house. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Alford said.
The Badgers come into Iowa City with a nation leading 16 game winning streak. They are 6-0 in conference play and 20-1 overall. With Iowa’s win over Penn State they move to .500 in conference game at 3-3 and are 11-9 overall. Penn State falls to 1-5 in the conference and 10-9 overall.