For as long as I can remember, Iowa has played subpar at Bryce-Jordan Center against particularly mediocre Penn State teams. In a quick query at the esteemed Sports Reference, my hunch was correct.
Since Fran’s arrival, Iowa is 3-3 against Penn State. "Not bad," you might say. You could even argue that the first two years, both losses, were ones we’d allow given the context of the rebuild. But a deeper look shows an Iowa program lazing their way through games against the Nittany Lions.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011: Penn State 65 – Iowa 51
This was, unarguably, Fran’s worse team while at Iowa. Penn State was also pretty good this year, finishing 9-9 in the Big Ten. One might let this 14 point deficit slide because of this information. However, this was amongst Iowa’s worse offensive performances (only at Ohio State and vs. Minnesota did they post lower point totals), in a season of truly offensive offense – 231st offensive rating in the country. To Iowa’s credit, they jumped to a 21-10 lead roughly 10:00 into the game (kenpom - pay) although they were only able to muster 7 more points during the rest of the half.
Thursday, February 16, 2012: Penn State 69 – Iowa 64
Perhaps the sleepiest of Iowa’s sleepy starts at Penn State, Iowa allowed Penn State to jump to a 25-12 lead 12 minutes into the game despite an offensive rating ranked 262nd in the country. (kenpom) They were able to mount a late comeback to close the gap to 3 points with about 90 seconds left, the 16-point halftime lead proved too much to overcome.
Thursday, February 14, 2013: Iowa 74 – Penn State 72
Iowa’s first win of the McCaffery era at BJC coincided with the arrival of a highly-regarded freshman class against a particularly putrid Penn State team – they finished 2-16 in the Big Ten. At the time of the jump, Iowa was rated 35 in kenpom to Penn State’s 207.
Iowa jumped to a 10 point lead but allowed the Nittany Lions to score 16 straight points. (kenpom) The back and forth first half ended with Iowa up 38-34. The second half started back and forth, before Iowa went on a run to lead by a score of 61-49. Penn State was able to get within 2 within the last minute, though the Hawkeyes were able to escape with a win.
Saturday, February 15, 2014: Iowa 82 – Penn State 70
Iowa was finally in the Big Ten’s upper crust, coming into the game 7-4 with a top 10 kenpom rating. Penn State, to their credit, had elevated themselves from the dregs of the nation with a mediocre-but-no-longer-putrid 82 mark.
Iowa showed their class for much of the first half (kenpom) before scoring only a two more points in the final 5 minutes of the opening period. Penn State was able to ride a 12-2 run for a 2 point lead. The Hawks were finally able to put them away after a back and forth 10 minutes out of the break, winning the final quarter 31-24.
Saturday, February 28, 2015: Iowa 81 – Penn State 77 (OT)
The most volatile of the kenpom win probability graphs up until this point, a superior Iowa team allowed Penn State to jump to a 23-11 lead barely 8:00 into the game. Iowa was able to mitigate this poor start with a solid finish to the first half and took a 31-29 lead into the break.
It was a back and forth affair, staying within the range of 6 points each way. Iowa was able to take a 68-66 lead with roughly 2 minutes left but couldn’t score another bucket. (play-by-play) Anthony Clemmons fouled DJ Newbill with 17 seconds left as he was able to calmly drain the tying free throws. Uthoff could not make the last second jumper for the win and the game went to OT.
Iowa went up 6 after two stops and two threes but allowed Penn State to tie it with under a minute left. It became a free throw shooting contest from there and Iowa was able to win it 7-3 on the back of Aaron White 6-for-6 performance.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
I see no reason to rehash this game, as the guys who get paid the big bucks will do much better at it than I can.
So, what does this mean? Can Iowa not acclimate to the 1,154’ altitude of State College, PA? Does the long flight/bus ride combine for an unusually weary team? Is there something in the water? Does the lackluster crowd make it easy for Iowa to lose focus? Is the hotel haunted and keep the players awake at night? We may never know. But what we do know is: Iowa is always at risk of dropping one at Penn State.