By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was a matter of almost, but not quite enough for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team in its Big Ten Conference opener.
Penn State never trailed, holding off every Hawkeye rally to post a 77-73 victory on Saturday afternoon on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa falls to 4-4 overall, 0-1 in Big Ten play.
The win was the Nittany Lions’ (7-2, 1-0) first in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since 2001.
The Hawkeyes trailed by as many as 10 points (44-34) early in the second half before closing within a single possession 10 times in the second half. Iowa could never get over the proverbial hump.
“Several times we were able to get it to a one possession game and we were turning the ball over and we were missing shots,” said sophomore Cordell Pemsl. “Then we have to go back and stop them again. It takes a lot out of you.
“Maybe if we can start a game differently, maybe we’re up three or eight. We were missing free throws, gave up 12 3s, and had 18 turnovers. We’re right there, but there are a few minor things we need to get adjusted and if we do that we’ll be OK.”
Sophomore Tyler Cook posturized Penn State’s Shep Garner with a one-handed slam and he made his free throw to complete the three-point play to cut the deficit to 69-67 with 1:11 left. On the next possession, the Hawkeyes nearly got a stop, but instead, Lamar Stevens hit a jumper from the top of the key with the shot clock winding down to put Penn State up four.
The Hawkeyes had it to within two, trailing 73-71 with 12 seconds remaining when junior Nicholas Baer appeared to strip Tony Carr cleanly in Iowa’s full-court press. Baer was whistled for the foul and Carr hit both free throws to push the lead to four. Penn State made all four down the stretch to claim the four-point win.
Iowa shot 50.9 percent from the field, making 28-of-55 field goals. Penn State shot 43.8 percent, but made 12-of-23 3-pointers. All of Penn State’s points came from its starting five.
STAT OF THE GAME
Penn State entered Saturday’s game averaging 6.3 3-point field goals in eight contests. The Nittany Lions made a season-high 12 3-pointers, including four from guards Tony Carr and Shep Garner.
“We tried to mix some defenses,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “We had a little bit of success with our press and zone, but our zone was not good enough. It was OK at times, but it needs to be better.
“Our defense was much more active in the second half, but they made some big shots. When a team makes 12 3s, you’re going to have a hard time beating them. We can’t give up 12 threes.”
Cook scored a game-high 23 points, making 7-of-13 field goals and 9-of-13 free throws. He also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to notch his first double-double of the season and third of his career.
“We did a good job on defense, other than Cook,” said Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers. “He’s a great player. It doesn’t matter if we doubled him or if he had single coverage. He did whatever he needed to do and got himself to the free throw line.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon finished with eight points and four assists, but he attempted just six shots in the contest.
“We have to screen more for him,” said McCaffery. “Whether we’re running sets or motion, we have to free him up. He has to get more shots. We’re a team that is bigger so we want to throw it in, but Jordan has to get more than six shots.”
- Iowa committed 18 turnovers, which led to 22 Penn State points.
- The Hawkeyes scored 42 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Nittany Lions, 39-30.
- Baer started for the first time this season, replacing Ahmad Wagner in Iowa’s starting lineup. He finished with four points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.
- Along with Cook, Isaiah Moss and Cordell Pemsl reached double figures, scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Hawkeyes have a quick turnaround, traveling to Bloomington for a Monday night matchup at Indiana. Game time is 7 p.m. (CT).