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IOWA CITY — Iowa’s 30-25 halftime lead over Penn State Saturday in men’s basketball looked somewhat like fool’s gold.
You can’t get out-rebounded 22-10 over 20 minutes and pretend you’re playing winning ball.
“We were all upset with ourselves because we let that happen,” said Hawkeye forward Kris Murray.
“We missed 15 shots in the first half and didn’t get any back,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Our defense was pretty good if you look at the numbers, but we just got destroyed on the glass. That had to change if we were going to win.”
It didn’t merely change, it took a 180-degree turn. The Hawkeyes had 27 second-half rebounds to the Nittany Lions’ 12. Iowa won 68-51 before a Carver-Hawkeye Arena sellout crowd of 15,056.
The Hawkeyes evened their Big Ten record at 4-4 and improved their overall mark to 14-5.
“We say it all the time: The tougher team sets the rules,” said Penn State Coach Micah Shrewsberry. “We were probably the tougher team in the first half and they flipped it and they were the tougher team in the second half.”
“We’re really tough,” Murray said. “We’re not going to let anyone out-tough us.”
Defense is predicated on toughness, too, and that wasn’t a problem area for Iowa in either half. After three straight games of opponents shooting at least 50 percent, Iowa held Rutgers to 31 percent in its 48-46 loss Wednesday, and let Penn State (3-5, 8-8) make just 33.3 percent of its shots.
The Lions got as close as three points early in the second half, then the Hawkeyes methodically pulled away. Kris and Keegan Murray combined to score 19 of Iowa’s 21 points from the 11:26 mark of the second half to the 2:20 mark, and the Hawkeyes’ lead grew from 43-38 to 64-49 in that time.
The final three points of that stretch was on a Keegan Murray 3-pointer, his first make from that distance in seven tries.
“It's crazy that he was able to do that because he was just off a little bit,” McCaffery said. “I thought the 3s that he took were good shots. I don't think he forced anything. He doesn't typically force anything. That's not how he plays. But he didn't hesitate on that. Just drilled it. I think that was the dagger.”
Keegan Murray had a game-high 15 points and Kris added 13, with Kris sinking 3 of 5 3s. Patrick McCaffery and senior guard Jordan Bohannon also made three 3-pointers. Both scored 11 points.
Bohannon was coming off a 2-for-10 night from beyond the arc at Rutgers, and had his head down as he left Iowa’s locker room for the team bus.
“This was probably one of the first times in my career I kind of doubted myself,” Bohannon said. “(At Rutgers) I was getting the ball late in the shot clock and I wasn’t my normal self.
“I’ve got to credit (Iowa assistant coach Kirk) Speraw. He brought me in his office right before the game here and he just showed me some of my clips through the years, all my big shots I’ve hit and the cockiness and swagger I played with.
“I think it was putting too much pressure on myself. I want this final year of mine and on this team that we have to be special. I think we have the group that will make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Right now we just have to keep building, one game at a time to keep building a resume.”
Iowa’s next game is a potential resume-builder. The Hawkeyes stay home for an 8 p.m. Thursday game against No. 4 Purdue (15-3, 4-3).
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