Feb. 15, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At a critical point late in the second half Saturday, Penn State decided to make the No. 15/16 University of Iowa men’s basketball team win from the free throw line.
The Hawkeyes did just that.
Iowa made 31-of-40 free throws — including 14-of-16 during the final 2:48 — and survived a first-half scare to down the Nittany Lions, 82-70, at Bryce Jordan Center.
It was the third road victory in a row for the Hawkeyes, who improved to 19-6 overall, 8-4 in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State, which won Wednesday at Indiana, is 13-13, 4-8. The last time an Iowa men’s basketball team won that many consecutive games away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena was during the 1997-98 season.
“I couldn’t be happier,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “In the first half I thought it came a little easy early. I didn’t think at that point our defense was where it needed to be against a quick talented group of (Penn State guards D.J.) Newbill and (Tim) Frazier in particular.”
Iowa scored the first six points and led 11-4 less than three minutes into the game by making 5 of its first 8 field goals. The fifth basket during that run was a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Mike Gesell, who finished with a career-high four field goals from long range.
“He is a terrific shooter and he is really feeling comfortable shooting the ball,” McCaffery said of Gesell. “Guys are looking for him.”
In return, Gesell is looking for his teammates: he finished with seven assists to just two turnovers in 30 minutes.
UI senior forward Melsahn Basabe led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds. He made 6-of-9 field goals. Three other Hawkeyes scored in double figures: Roy Devyn Marble (15 points, 10-of-12 free throws), Aaron White (14 points, seven rebounds), and Gesell (13 points). Marble is the only player to score more than 10 points in every Big Ten game this season.
The Nittany Lions were once again paced by the highest-scoring backcourt in the league. Newbill totaled a game-high 22 points and Frazier added 11.
Penn State used a 12-2 rally to take a two-point lead at the break (33-31). It is the first time the Hawkeyes trailed at halftime in six games when they were behind Michigan, 38-34, on Jan. 22. Despite trailing after 20 minutes, the fact the Nittany Lions had 33 points was a good sign: Iowa is now 13-0 when holding opponents to 70 points or less.
“We needed to challenge the guys at halftime to be a little more physical, a little tougher, to play through contact,” McCaffery said. “(Penn State) is a foul team (23 in this game). They foul because they aren’t giving you anything easy.”
Iowa was ahead during the final 12:28, gaining the lead for good when Jarrod Uthoff made (appropriately) two free throws for a 46-44 edge.
“When we needed stops we were contesting and rebounding. That was so impressive to me,” McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes blocked 10 shots, the most since rejecting 12 in the season opener versus UNC-Wilmington. Basabe led the way with four blocks and Gabriel Olaseni had three.
“We had a short bench and I’m down to three guards and rotating them,” McCaffery said. “Zach (McCabe) was in foul trouble. What can you say about your team’s toughness when you go through that?”
Iowa returns to the road Tuesday for a matchup against Indiana (14-10, 4-7). Tip-off from Assembly Hall is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT).
“We’ll rest (Sunday). It is a very difficult place to play at Indiana,” McCaffery said. “We have had a road toughness about us that I’ve been impressed with. They will lock into the game plan and we’ll be ready.”