Jan. 16, 2010
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By Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It wasn’t easy, but that’s the Big Ten Conference for you. The University of Iowa earned its first league victory in men’s basketball inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday afternoon, 67-64, over Penn State.
Aaron Fuller’s second consecutive double-double — this time 20 points and 10 rebounds — paced the Hawkeyes (7-11 overall, 1-4 Big Ten). Matt Gatens chipped in with 14 points and point guard Cully Payne handed out a career-high seven assists.
Iowa shot 22 of 52 (42 percent) from the floor, 7 of 25 (28 percent) from long-distance, and 18 of 25 (72 percent) from the charity stripe. Talor Battle led Penn State (8-9, 0-5) with a game-high 31 points.
“I think (Fuller) finally has two good wheels,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “He’s sore and had a bad ankle. If you look at him, you can see how hard he’s worked in the offseason. He was always a good offensive rebounder but now he has the strength to add to it. You can’t ask a kid to get double-doubles all the time but as longs as he keeps going to the offensive glass like that, he’s going to be very productive.”
Seven of Fuller’s 10 rebounds came on the offensive end.
The first 10 minutes were not a work of art for Iowa, but the next 10 were as nice as they come. The Hawkeyes could not get on the board until Fuller went to the line after being fouled on a layup attempt and hit both of his free throws to trail 3-2 with 16:44 left in the half. John Lickliter drained a 3-pointer to trail by 1, but Iowa had trouble hitting shots, and made only one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Hawkeyes found themselves in an early 22-11 deficit with 8:40 remaining in the half.
After slowing the tempo, Iowa settled down to get itself back in the game. Fuller assisted Devan Bawinkel for an open trey and Gatens drilled another from downtown on the ensuing possession to cut into the Nittany Lion lead 24-19.
“We were down pretty big in the first half,” UI freshman Eric May said. “I was really happy the way we played off of that. We played really well, especially from the middle of the first half on.”
“I really like this team. They care about playing the right way, they care about one another and they are good guys. They just gave a great effort.”
UI head basketball coach
Not many turnovers can lead to positive results, but after a Penn State steal, May rushed back down court and blocked a sure layup from the hands of Bill Edwards to get the ball back. In the same possession Payne assisted Fuller down low for a fast-break layup. He was fouled after hitting the jumper and made the layup to trail by two.
“It was a great play,” Lickliter said. “It was a very athletic play, it was a terrific play. Not everyone in the gym could have made that play other than Eric. He didn’t feel sorry for himself (after the turnover), he didn’t stop, he continued to play and that is huge.”
“He didn’t give up on the play and give up the two points,” Fuller said. “He blocked it and we came down and scored, it was a great momentum changer.”
The Hawkeyes grabbed the lead one possession later with a 3-pointer from May, but Battle followed with one of his own. Andrew Brommer made a layup with 0:01 remaining in the half to go into the locker room ahead, 31-28.
The Hawkeyes went up by five points when Payne faked a 3-pointer and pushed the ball down low to Fuller for a layup. Gatens drilled a trifecta from the right side of the arc to maintain the momentum and a 42-34 advantage with 14:23 left in the game.
The Nittany Lions cut a once 10-point lead to five after Tim Frazier hit a midrange jumper and David Jackson followed with an uncontested layup. Penn State started a full-court, man-to-man defense, but the Hawkeye offense handled it with ease and regained ground 53-44.
As soon as the Hawkeyes gained ground, they lost it as the Nittany Lions closed in, 53-50. Penn State started fouling and making mistakes and the Hawkeyes capitalized on it after Fuller hit a layup and was fouled for a three-point play. Penn State had an ill-advised pass on the following possession and turned it over before the Nittany Lions fouled Gatens to put Iowa in the bonus. Penn State fouled Cole on the next possession and he hit 1 of 2 free throws for a 59-50 lead with 3:55 left.
The game was all but over. Battle helped the Nittany Lions back into it after he hit two free throws to trail by two with 1:09 left. May had an open look for a 3-pointer, but it rimmed out. Fuller was underneath the basket and was pushed to put him at the free throw line, where he made one of two to lead, 61-58. Battle continued to keep Penn State in the game with two layups. Gatens hit both of his free throws with 0:08 remaining for a three-point advantage. Payne fouled Frazier on the other end, but he could not hit his free throws as the Hawkeyes finished off the victory.
“I really like this team,” Lickliter said. “They care about playing the right way, they care about one another and they are good guys. They just gave a great effort, it wasn’t perfect we had some miscues and some miscues down the stretch, but we didn’t let that define us. We continued to do the things that we needed to do defensively. It was a well-earned win against a good team.”
Iowa will head to East Lansing, Mich., on Wednesday, Jan. 20, to take on Michigan State with a 5:35 p.m. tipoff inside the Breslin Center.