Men’s hoops struggles against zone against Penn State


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Defense wins games, which explains why the Iowa men’s basketball team lost to Penn State, 65-51, Sunday in University Park, Pa.

The Hawkeyes (8-12, 1-7 Big Ten) allowed the Nittany Lions (11-8, 4-4) to shoot 53 percent from the floor. Iowa managed to shoot only 37 percent.

Penn State’s attack was led by the double-headed monster of guard Talor Battle and forward Jeff Brooks. Battle, the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer, finished with 23 points and three assists.

Brooks, who had only hit a dozen 3-pointers all year, shot 4-for-6 from behind the arc on his way to 22 points.

The Nittany Lions’ stellar defense didn’t help matters.

Iowa looked strong out of the gate, jumping out to a 21-10 lead against Penn State’s man-to-man defense after the first 10 minutes. Penn State coach Ed DeChellis switched schemes to a 2-3 zone, and the Hawkeyes scored just seven more points and entered the break down, 29-28.

“We basically buckled under the pressure,” Iowa center Jarryd Cole said in a postgame radio interview. “They switched defenses, and we knew they were going to switch it, and we worked on it in practice all week, but we just couldn’t overcome it.”

Before Penn State switched to the zone, Iowa point guard Bryce Cartwright had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting. He didn’t make another shot the rest of the game, and he was hardly the only Hawkeye to struggle.

The team scored two field goals in an eight-minute stretch midway through the second half as Penn State pulled away. Iowa turned the ball over three times and missed seven shots in that span.

“We can’t win giving the ball away,” Cole said. “That hurts us as a team.”

Penn State dominated in the paint, finishing with a 24-12 scoring advantage in the lane and a 30-21 rebounding edge. Iowa recorded just one offensive rebound in the second half, and Brooks said cleaning the glass was a focus of DeChellis’ halftime speech to the Nittany Lions.

“We gave up seven offensive rebounds [in the first half], and that’s big for us,” Brooks said in a television interview. “We came out in the second half and set the tone. We got some rebounds, and away we went.”

Iowa’s problems in the paint were compounded by freshman forward Melsahn Basabe’s quiet night on both sides of the floor. Basabe has been one of coach Fran McCaffery’s better players this year, but he was held to four points and just a pair of rebounds. McCaffery only played Basabe for 20 minutes, and said his young star needs to focus defensively.

“We kept taking him out in the second half cause he wasn’t executing the defensive game plan,” McCaffery said in a radio interview. “He was on the wrong side of his man, he had no awareness of where Battle was. He played like a freshman tonight. He’s a good player, we love him, he’s going to be terrific, but tonight wasn’t one of his better games.”

Cole said he doesn’t expect Basabe to hang his head, though, and he was quick to point out that the ugly loss doesn’t signal the end of the season.

“Guys are still optimistic, and they still feel like there’s a chance in this season,” Cole said. “We’re not ready to hang it up yet, and I hope the fans aren’t ready to hang it up on us. We’re still going to come out and battle every night, prepare well in practice, and play our best when we get out there on the court.”

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