Game Grades: Penn State vs. Iowa
The Nittany Lions faced off against the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City Wednesday night. Penn State came in with a record of 11 wins and 12 losses (2-8 Big Ten) hoping to play spoiler to fifth-ranked Iowa (18-4, 9-1 Big Ten). Getting off to another slow start, the Nittany Lions fell behind early and the Hawkeyes never looked back, leading the game by double digits for most of the contest. Despite an ice cold start to the game, Brandon Taylor led the Lions in scoring with 15 points, recording another double-double with 11 rebounds. He was the only Lion with double digit points. Iowa led by as many as 26 points during the game, coasting to a 73-49 victory.
Back Court: C-
The back court struggled from the tip-off until the end, falling prey to Iowa’s full court trap early and coughing up the ball six times in the first half. Sophomore Shep Garner came out firing, but he would find no success behind the arc. It wasn’t until he began taking it inside that was able to get on the scoreboard. Starting guards Garner and Devin Foster combined for 10 points in the game, both failing to sink a shot from deep. Poor shot selection early in the shot clock played into the hands of Iowa’s quick, rangy style of play. The Nittany Lions were able to find more success when slowing down the pace and working the ball inside.
Front Court: C+
Penn State’s big men struggled against the taller front court of Iowa, forcing the Lions into foul trouble. Leading scorer Brandon Taylor found himself in trouble early on, quickly picking up two fouls. He picked up a third at the end of the half. The Hawkeyes were rewarded with 26 free throws, capitalizing on 17 of them. While the Nittany Lions struggled offensively, Taylor and the front court fought for second chances, out-rebounding the Hawkeyes on the offensive glass 17-11. Taylor led the team with six offensive boards, most of them from his own missed shots. Taylor struggled mightily on offense, finishing 7-20 from the field and also failing to hit a three-point shot. In fact, the Lions shot 1-20 from behind the arc, raising quite a sizeable red flag for the offensive strategy heading forward.
With the starters shooting abysmally to start the game, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers had no choice but to turn to his bench. Bringing a change of pace, the Lions worked the ball deeper into the paint, taking more time off of the shot clock and getting to the foul line. However, with the team down big early on, the starters were forced to stay in the game for the team to have any chance at winning. Of the four players that came off the bench, center Jordan Dickerson led the way, grabbing five rebounds, an assist, and three points. Sharpshooter Deividas Zemgulis was good for six points, including the only three-point shot of the game for the Lions.
Coming into the game as double-digit underdogs, the Nittany Lions were clearly outmatched on the road. Nothing was going right defensively. The Hawkeyes’ ball movement and inside-outside technique carved up the Penn State defense for 73 points, capitalizing on six three-point shots while shooting 46 percent from the field for the game. Coach Chamber’s half-court offense looked stagnant, stifled by the long arms of the Iowa defenders. If the Nittany Lions are to put an end to this losing streak, they must move better without the ball on offense, using both on and off-ball screens to open up key shooters like Garner and Taylor. But if the Lions continue to shoot this poorly from behind the arc, they’ll have to reduce the amount of threes they take if they want to slow down the transition offense of their opponents. They’ll have to make some adjustments before the Indiana Hoosiers come to town on Friday if they want to stay in the game against another tough conference opponent.
Bobby Brown is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.