Iowa dropped from Big Ten Tournament

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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CHICAGO — Iowa knew it would have its hands full. Penn State was a team with nothing to lose, a team whose season will likely come to a conclusion unless it ran the table in the Big Ten Tournament.

Iowa also needed overtime to pull out the victory the last time the two teams met.

However, it’s not likely many people predicted Iowa — a team riding a six-game winning streak into the tournament — would lose to the Nittany Lions as it did Thursday, 67-58.

“This kills,” Aaron White said after the game. “I want more than anything to be playing tomorrow and the next day. It really hurts, especially as a senior and playing as well as we have. It definitely hurts.”

White noted that while most people who watched the game would point to Iowa’s poor offensive output, he puts the onus of the loss on the Hawkeyes defense.

After a stellar half, in which Iowa gave up just 19 points on 7-of-28 shooting from Penn State, Iowa gave up 48 points in the second half. Even if the Hawkeyes offense had shot lights out, they still might not have walked away with a win given the lack of stops on the defensive end.

So what changed? How did a team shot 25 percent from the floor one half, then come back less than half an hour later and shoot 53.6 percent for the second half?

Not much on Iowa’s end.

“Well, nothing strategically,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They shot it well. We made some mistakes, I think. They took advantage of those mistakes. But they made some shots at a critical juncture in the game, which changed a lot.”

One of those critical shots came from Penn State senior Travis Ross, who gave the Nittany Lions a 5-point lead with a reverse lay-up plus the foul with 31 seconds left in the game. 

D.J. Newbill stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a dunk the next possession, then Penn State sank a couple of free throws and walked out with its second win in two days.

“I just saw the shot clock winding down, and the ball was in my hands, so I just had to baseline it to make the play,” Travis said about his 3-point play.

While the game may have been lost on the defensive side of the floor, Iowa’s offense didn’t provide much room for mistakes.

The Hawkeyes shot 26.3 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range. Other than Jarrod Uthoff and White, who combined for 38 points and 20 rebounds, Iowa scored just 20 points on 5-of-30 shooting.

There was also a stretch in the second half that included 10-straight misses and spanned eight minutes, in addition to a stretch of 4:55 in the first half in which Iowa went without a field goal.

The saving grace of Iowa’s offense came at the free-throw line; it shot 25-of-31, outscoring Penn State by 8. 

“Penn State is a team that’s really going to get in your space, try to mug you off ball screens, try to get you out of rhythm,” Mike Gesell said. “That was just the flow of the game.”

This loss feels different from when Iowa was bounced by Northwestern from the Big Ten Tournament last season.

Both came at the hands of lower-seeded teams, and both occurred in Iowa’s first game in the tournament. But compared with last season, there’s no question Iowa will be selected to play in the NCAA Tournament next week.

No bubble was burst here; there will be future games, and this loss also doesn’t fully diminish Iowa’s run to end the regular season. But it does sting, as McCaffery made clear after the game:

“Today’s effort in terms of execution and concentration was unacceptable.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa basketball team.

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