To make the NCAA Tournament at this point in the season, the Iowa men’s basketball team will have to win the games it is supposed to win and finish the rest of the home schedule unbeaten.
Thursday’s road game at Penn State was one of those games the Hawkeyes should win.
So even a 74-72 win against the still Big Ten winless Nittany Lions will mean something. It is not a loss. And it was Iowa’s first win at Penn State since 2006.
Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble continued on his path back to greatness, scoring 22 points in the win, while freshman Mike Gesell and junior Melsahn Basabe also both finished in double-figures for the Hawkeyes, who move into a tie with Minnesota on Sunday with a home victory over the Gophers.
The Gophers are currently in sixth place in the Big Ten at 18-8 overall and 6-6 in league play. Iowa, Illinois and Purdue are all sitting just one game back at 5-7.
It nearly was all for naught for the Hawkeyes, who had to battle for 40 minutes to beat Penn State, which dropped to 0-12 in league play following the loss.
Iowa led 17-7 early but a 16-0 run by the home team gave the Nittany Lions a 23-17 advantage with 9:16 to go in the first half. D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall combined to score 11 of those 16 points and assisted on two more field goals during the run.
Newbill had a career night as he finished with 26 points and eight boards, while Marshall added 14 points and 10 assists. Sasa Borovnjak also added 14 points for Penn State, which dropped to 8-16 after the loss.
Then Iowa scored 11 straight to go back up five and the Hawkeyes eventually led 38-34 at the break.
The Hawkeyes (16-9) did not trail once they grabbed a lead at the 18:25 mark of the second half. But Penn State did not go away quietly.
The Nittany Lions cut the lead to 50-49 with 14 minutes to go but Iowa responded with an 11-0 run to push the advantage back to double digits. Three-pointers by freshman Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May triggered the run. May finished with seven points and four rebounds off the bench.
Iowa’s lead quickly evaporated though. Penn State scored 10 of the next 11 points to close to within 62-59 with 6:29 to go. The Nittany Lions got within two three different times in the final 4 minutes but Iowa hit 9-of-11 from the line in the final 6 minutes to seal the win. The Hawkeyes also hit 4-of-6 in the final 30 seconds and were 20-of-26 in the game, while Penn State was 10-of-15.
Marble score at least 20 points for the second straight game. Marble has led the team in scoring six times this season. Gesell scored 13 points, the fourth time in the past six games he has scored in double-figures.
Basabe scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds. Freshman Adam Woodbury had a team-high seven boards, while Aaron White had five boards. Iowa out-rebounded Penn State 40-29 in the win.
White also had nine points in the game and Iowa shot 44 percent from the floor in the victory.
Penn State also shot 44 percent from the floor and was 8-of-17 from long range. The Nittany Lions also lost despite turning the ball over just six times.
The Hawkeyes will tip-off with Minnesota just after 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Gophers needed a late 3 in Minneapolis to survive the first meeting between the two rivals.