For the first time since 1997-98, the Iowa men’s basketball team has won three straight road games in the Big Ten Conference.
Thanks to a season-low six turnovers and a season-high 31 made free throws, the Hawkeyes were able to rally past Penn State on Saturday, outscoring the Nittany Lions by 14 in the second half during an 82-70 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park, Penn.
Melsahn Basabe led four Hawkeyes in double figures with 16 points and also grabbed eight rebounds and had four of the team’s 10 blocked shots.
Roy Devyn Marble added 15 points and was 10-of-12 from the line in the win as Iowa was 31-of-40 from the charity stripe in the game. Adam Woodbury scored seven points in the win and was 7-of-8 from the foul line.
"I couldn't be happier," UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. "In the first half I thought it came a little easy early. I didn't think at that point our defense was where it needed to be against a quick talented group of (Penn State guards D.J.) Newbill and (Tim) Frazier in particular."
Penn State (13-13, 4-9) used a 12-2 run to go up 33-31 at the break, but Iowa outscored Penn State 51-37 in the second half. The Hawkeyes (19-6, 8-4) turned a five-point advantage to 13 with an 8-0 run late in the game and then Iowa went 13-of-14 from the line in the final 2:31 to lock up their 19th win of the season.
"We needed to challenge the guys at halftime to be a little more physical, a little tougher, to play through contact," McCaffery said. "(Penn State) is a foul team (23 in this game). They foul because they aren't giving you anything easy."
Aaron White also had 14 points and seven rebounds, while Mike Gesell buried four 3-pointers and scored 13 points with seven assists and just two turnovers. Jarrod Uthoff also had seven points and seven rebounds as the Hawkeyes improved to 13-0 this season when holding their opponent to 70 points or less.
Iowa survived a test to its depth. Anthony Clemmons has an ankle injury, Peter Jok has a knee injury, Gabe Olaseni was overcoming illness, and Basabe didn't feel up to par in the second half.
"We had a short bench and I'm down to three guards and rotating them," McCaffery said. "Zach (McCabe) was in foul trouble. What can you say about your team's toughness when you go through that?"
Newbill led the Nittany Lions with 22 points, but Iowa held all-Big Ten Conference guard Frazier to just 11 points, but he did have seven rebounds and four assists. John Johnson also had 11 points, while Ross Travis chipped in 10 points with six rebounds.
Penn State shot just 3-of-16 from 3-point range but lost despite scoring 40 points in the paint and getting 24 points from its bench.
"When we needed stops we were contesting and rebounding. That was so impressive to me," McCaffery said.
The win for Iowa assured that the Hawkeyes will remain in third place in the Big Ten Conference at least through the weekend. And with losses by Michigan and Michigan State on Sunday, Iowa is now just one game behind the two conference leaders in the loss column. Wisconsin’s win over Michigan though pushed the Badgers to within a half-game of Iowa.
Iowa travels to struggling Indiana on Tuesday but hosts No. 21 Wisconsin on Saturday. Both the Hawkeyes and Badgers will have to win that game to remain in the Big Ten Conference title race.
"We'll rest (Sunday). It is a very difficult place to play at Indiana," McCaffery said. "We have had a road toughness about us that I've been impressed with. They will lock into the game plan and we'll be ready."