Before we get to the Iowa/PSU preview, the recap on Iowa/Wisconsin was missed. Wires got crossed, our baby’s first cold struck our house so everybody got sick, the write-up didn’t happen. Sorry!
But it was a fun one so let’s distill it:
- First half: Wisconsin couldn’t hit anything but turned a game which was played largely with a double-digit Iowa lead into a six-point game. Fran drew up a set play for CJ Fredrick which had Iowa going into half with a nine-point lead.
- Same story in the second half: Iowa built a 16-point lead quickly but the Badgers cut into it during a ~7:00 stretch where Iowa scored just four points. From there, Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp took Iowa home.
- Luka Garza scored 31 points on 11/19 shooting. Wieskamp continued his torrid pace from behind the arc with 17 points and 5/6 from deep. Our Twitter account was flamed for this tweet even though Jordan Bohannon went just 1/5 after it was sent. The usual.
Onto the preview!
Tomorrow’s game is the story of two teams going in different directions: the #11 Iowa Hawkeyes (16-6, 10-5) are on a delightful three-game winning streak in which they’ve outscored their opponent on average by 19.3 points. Awesome.
The Penn State Nittany Lions (7-11, 4-10) are on a three-game losing streak where they’ve been unable to get over the hump: single possession losses to Michigan State and Nebraska and a 10-point defeat to Ohio State despite leading by eight with 15:00 left.
Considering their record, it might be easy to overlook PSU and onto the rescheduled Michigan game next week. History tells us this is exactly when the Big Ten strikes and blood/spiders emerge and wreck havoc on Iowa’s lovely February run.
The Nittany Lions had some offseason turmoil with Pat Chambers departure and Jim Ferry taking over on an interim basis. They’ve been hit with the misfortune of having the third-most difficult schedule while not necessarily being bad, at 38 in KenPom’s rankings.
Their conference wins, though, were all at home against Rutgers, Northwestern, Wisconsin, & Minnesota. The only loss which really sticks out is the one to Nebraska because it was at home and the Cornhuskers are ...not good. Maybe something, maybe nothing: their “luck” is 317th in the country.
Myreon Jones (G, 6’3”, 180 lbs): Penn State’s leading scorer at 15.1 points/game. He’s shooting 40.8% from both 3 and 2, which is good but also not good. This is a result of him taking 60 shots from midrange (37%) vs 61 shots at the rim (46%) (stat via Pivot Analysis). Should CJ Fredrick be able to go again, he’ll have the assignment and be tasked with the tricky assignment of closing out well enough to run him off the three point lane but recovering in time to keep him out of the lane.
Seth Lundy (F, 6’6”, 219 lbs): The rangy sophomore is a capable, though inconsistent, wing for PSU. After starting the first 16 games of their season, he was relegated to a bench role. He’s made 6 of 13 threes in the two games since, an uptick from 2/18 in his prior four games. Last year he was a 40% shooter in Big Ten play - is that “normal” or is this season?
John Harrar (F, 6’9”, 240 lbs): After operating in a timeshare down low with Mike Watkins the previous two seasons, Harrar has moved nicely into the full-time starting role, averaging 9 points in 25 minutes. He’s been plagued with foul problems much of his career - his 4.7 fouls/40 is the best of his career. The senior is a capable scorer with a career shooting percentage of 59%.
Can Iowa keep up the defensive effort? The Hawkeyes have held opponents under 70 points in each of the last four games which is the longest such streak against Big Ten opponents they’ve had since 2015! (it was 7 games) What makes this stretch more impressive is simply the pace with which Iowa has played games - that team averaged 61.8 possessions/game while this team is at 66.3.
Anyways, the flip to full-time man-to-man seems to be paying off dividends with and without CJ Fredrick, though Iowa could especially use him tomorrow against Penn State’s four guard lineup.
When does Luka Garza break Roy Marble’s scoring record? LG needs just 14 points to surpass Marble’s 2,116 career points. If Iowa’s emphasis to get him going early carries over from the Wisconsin game, he’s very likely to be the new career scoring leader in the first half as he scored 17 in the first stanza against the Badgers.
Garza has had strong showings against Penn State in his prior five matchups. Though he had just 19 points against them in two games his freshman year, he’s scored no less than 22 against them since. Considering the foul issues PSU may incur (their backup, Trent Buttrick, averages 6.9 fouls/40) I would not be surprised if the record was broken at the free throw line.
Can Iowa reset their rebounding woes? Over the last seven games, the Hawkeyes have yielded an offensive rebounding rate over 25% in six of them. This includes 33% to Wisconsin, when they rebounded 17 of their 49 misses (they had four on a single possession...yeesh).
Penn State, despite their relatively shorter heights, is the best in conference-play. They also use their athleticism along the perimeter to force the highest turnover rate in conference play, two indicators of the effort Iowa faces.
Should the Hawks not match the effort of PSU, Iowa could be in for a long day.
Tomorrow may be a coronation, of sorts, and with that pageantry, comes a little more pressure than the normal Big Ten basketball game. If Iowa is able to keep their sights set on the task at hand, everything else will fall into place. Otherwise, the Nittany Lions will rain on their parade.