Penn State at Iowa Preview

Story posted January 31, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Aaron Carr

After beginning Big Ten conference play at 0-8, Penn State and head coach Patrick Chambers have to be wondering if they will ever wake up from this nightmare and finally claim a conference victory. While Chambers has been relatively pleased with the way the team has battled during its conference schedule, Penn State’s Big Ten losses haven’t even been close except for a 68-64 loss to Nebraska on January 19.

In its ninth try at a Big Ten victory, the Nittany Lions will attempt to knock off the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this Thursday night. Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the Penn State basketball team has been as hard to win at in recent years as it was for the football team to claim a win at Kinnick Stadium. The Nittany Lions haven’t defeated Iowa on the road since 2001.

While Iowa (13-7, 2-5) doesn’t appear to be setting the Big Ten world on fire, Penn State would be wise not to underestimate the Hawkeyes.  Three of Iowa’s Big Ten losses were by four points or fewer as it fell to Indiana 69-65, Michigan State 62-59 and Purdue 65-62 in overtime its last time out. Iowa’s best win on its resume is their win against Wisconsin.

The biggest difference between Penn State and Iowa is offensive efficiency. The Hawkeyes are 65th in the country in points per game at nearly 73 a contest, and they score points the old-fashioned way. Currently ranked 19th and 22nd in the nation in rebounds and assists per game, Iowa is a  good fundamental team that does a great job of creating open looks by making the extra passes.

On the flipside, Penn State hasn’t been able to throw it in the ocean for the better part of the season and comes in averaging 61 points per game, good for second-worst in the Big Ten. Penn State’s inability to score is linked to its Big Ten worst 9 assists per game.

While Penn State boasts the best backcourt combination in the Big Ten outside of Ann Arbor, the dynamic duo of DJ Newbill (15.5 ppg) and Jermaine Marshall (15.1 ppg) can only carry the Nittany Lions on their backs for so long. While each ranks in the top seven of the Big Ten in scoring, neither has been overly quick to pass and get their teammates involved. In fairness, Newbill’s career as a point guard is still a work in progress after he was forced into that role early in the season following the injury to Tim Frazier.

Despite not possessing the star power and name recognition that certain members of Penn State bring to the table, the Hawkeyes are the classic definition of a team. Junior Roy Devyn Marble, who operates as a guard-forward, is the hit maker for Iowa and leads the team in scoring at 14.4 ppg. Given Iowa’s heavy emphasis on spreading the ball around, Marble is rarely given a chance to go off every night, despite having some monster games against Northern Iowa (30 points) and South Carolina State (27).

The matchup to watch is Penn State’s Ross Travis versus Iowa’s Aaron White. Each is their team’s respective leader in rebounding with Travis ranked fifth in the Big Ten at 6.8 rebounds per game. The difference between the two is that White is also Iowa’s second leading scorer (13.4 ppg), while Travis often appears to struggle just to hit his season average of 6.8 points a contest. If the Nittany Lions are to finally claim a conference victory, Travis must learn to convert his rebounds into points. Penn State is in desperate need of many things but a few of those could be remedied if Travis turns into a legitimate third scoring option behind Newbill and Marshall.

When you factor in both Penn State’s Big Ten struggles and its seemingly allergic reaction to stepping inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, this has all the makings of another tough night for the Big Ten cellar dwellers. Defeating an Iowa team with only two conference wins would still be regarded as quite an upset.

Aaron Carr is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail adc5230@psu.edu.