STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State bounced off the canvas in the final three minutes, survived a bizarre final nine seconds and rallied past the University of Iowa 65-64 on Wednesday inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
Seldom-used Hawkeye Dan Bohall looked to be the hero for the visitors when he coaxed a charging call on Penn State’s David Jackson and made four consecutive free throws to give Iowa a 64-57 lead with 2:40 to play. The Nittany Lions netted the game’s final eight points to improve to 13-14 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten. Iowa is 12-17, 5-11.
Jackson converted a traditional three-point play with 18.3 seconds remaining to grab the lead, 65-64. UI head coach Todd Lickliter called timeout with 9.4 seconds remaining to set up the final play for the Hawkeyes. Tony Freeman drove the left side of the lane, withstood Penn State contact, but couldn’t sink the left-handed shot. A tip by Jake Kelly went awry and Seth Gorney tapped the ball before it went out-of-bounds off a Nittany Lion with 1.2 second left. The in-bounds attempt to Justin Johnson was stripped away and Penn State won for the third straight time at home.
“We were looking for Seth on the back side, but what happened was two guys went with him,” Lickliter said. “It’s just one of those things. If we make one more play, we win this game. We had 17 turnovers.”
“They contained the final play well and nothing was open,” said Kelly, who led the Hawkeyes with 17 points. “It’s really disappointing because we’re fighting hard. It’s really tough to take this loss.”
Iowa squandered the victory despite an outstanding shooting performance. The Hawkeyes made 23 of 40 field goals (57.5 percent) and a whopping 12 of 22 three-point field goals (54.5). To top it off, they converted 6 of 7 free throws (85.7). Kelly made 7 of 9 field goals for 17 points. He added four assists. Freeman scored 14 points with five assists, and two other Iowa players — Johnson and Cyrus Tate — scored 12 and 11 points. Tate, the Big Ten Conference Player of the Week, fouled out with 4:59 remaining.
“There’s a poise and a toughness,” Lickliter said. “You can’t expect anyone to give you anything. Sometimes you’re going to get knocked around a little bit and you just have to move on and we struggled to move on.”
Johnson and Freeman both made four three-point field goals, but in the end, Iowa’s turnover total was too much to overcome.
Iowa grabbed its largest lead of the game at 45-33 with 16:20 left following a three-pointer by Johnson. The Hawkeyes feasted on the long ball early in the second half, turning a 31-30 halftime deficit into a 39-31 lead. Johnson made two three-pointers and Kelly added another during the first 100 seconds of the second half. Iowa trailed at intermission, despite making 12 of 19 field goals (63.2) and 6 of 11 three-pointers. It wasn’t a shabby second-half shooting display by the Hawkeyes, either. They made 11 of 22 from the field and again sank 6 of 11 three-point goals. The biggest key during the final 20 minutes was the turnover category, where Iowa had nine compared to three by the Nittany Lions.
“We made open shots and we got on a run,” Lickliter said. “Then it’s like we shoot ourselves in the foot. I don’t have an answer for it.”
Iowa returns home to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, March 1, to play Illinois with a 5:05 p.m. tip. The Hawkeyes are 10-7 in home games this season, including 4-4 during Big Ten play. Illinois is 11-17, 3-12 this season. It will be the final home game for seniors Johnson, Gorney and Kurt Looby.
“It will be hard to see those guys go,” Kelly said.