IOWA CITY – The Iowa men’s basketball team pulled within three points on seven different occasions, got to within two in the final minutes, but failed to break through in a Big Ten-opening loss to Penn State on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Here are three quick takeaways from the game:
1. Iowa does not have a go-to in big situations
In the several instances in the second half Saturday in which the Iowa defense got a stop – hold that thought – the Hawkeyes (4-4, 0-1) were not able to back it up with points. Empty possessions and turnovers – hold that thought, too – were the answer to Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Shep Garner’s big shots.
Iowa didn’t have a go-to player or action in those moments. The Hawkeyes tried their hand with Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss in those moments, but either couldn’t get the ball there, got a forced shot or a turnover.
These are the moments in which Iowa misses Peter Jok the most. Either from a lack of experience or otherwise, the Hawkeyes need someone to step up when these moments come.
2. Defense looked better, but still leaked in key moments
The Hawkeyes have looked much better defensively in the last two games, despite them being losses. Iowa out-rebounded its opponent for a second straight game, forced 14 turnovers and played clean – Penn State (7-2, 1-0) only shot 11 free throws, and that included the end-of-game trips.
The Nittany Lions’ bench scored zero points. They shot 39.4 percent in the second half. And Iowa’s press slowed Penn State down enough that it was then forced to rush a few possessions.
All that said, it was in those moments mentioned above, where Iowa turned it over that defense couldn’t stay strong one more time. Big shots from Carr and Garner let the air out of a few comeback attempts, and a completely blown defensive assignment on a press with less than a minute to go gave Mike Watkins a free layup and forced Iowa to start fouling.
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3. Turnover City, 52242
Eighteen turnovers is just about as sloppy as it gets for Iowa. What’s worse, it felt like every time Iowa faced a situation in which it could tie, the possession resulted in a turnover.
Fumbled passes, travels and lazy passes all were to blame.
Penn State’s defense has been stingy to start this year and the Nittany Lions’ team percentages in turnover and steal percentage rank in the top 16 in the nation. That’s a consistent thing, so they forced the Hawkeyes into a lot of that, but more than a few of the turnovers were unforced.
Cook and Moss, who were as important to Iowa’s day as anyone else, also were the worst offenders. They combined for nine turnovers, or half the team total. Considering both are asked to be go-to players, that’s a bad recipe.