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Iowa 68, Penn State 51: home cookin’

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The Iowa Hawkeyes use a 7-0 run to end the first half to gain a lead they would never relinquish for a solid home win against Penn State

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes, one game removed from the crime against the sport of basketball that was their previous matchup at Rutgers, took control late in the second half to defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions 68-51 on Saturday afternoon on a rare weekend game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The final score looks like a blowout, but in truth, the Nittany Lions were able to keep things close until late in the second half, where they suddenly couldn’t buy a shot after having multiple chances to cut into the Iowa lead that was cemented on a 7-0 that ended the first half. The Hawkeyes never looked back in the second half.

Keegan Murray played well but was hindered significantly offensively for the second straight game, scoring 15 points on 4-12 shooting and 1-7 from deep. His lone three-pointer, however, did ice the game, but it was clear that Murray was struggling to get his shot going all afternoon, but he did add 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists to the box score as well.

With Murray struggling for most of the game, it was up to the other starters — and the bench — to take care of the scoring, and they rose to the challenge. Filip Rebraca had yet another strong performance as he continues to get more and more comfortable in an Iowa uniform, to the tune of 8 points and 5 rebounds, scoring 6 of those 8 points in the second half that cemented Iowa. Kris Murray and Patrick McCaffery both tallied three 3-pointers apiece — career highs for both — to the tune of 13 and 11 points, respectively. Jordan Bohannon continued to struggle early in the first half but started to get his groove back as the game went on, logging 11 points.

Iowa’s offense also once again took a bit to get going, taking nearly four minutes to take a 7-2 lead. From there, the Hawkeyes took a 7 point lead, but Penn State stayed around and, like Rutgers did just a few days earlier, worked hard to take away the fast-break, slowing down the pace of the game and keeping the scoreboard low.

It worked — for the second straight game, the Hawkeyes struggled to get good looks, and baskets were at a premium. While they did score more than against Rutgers, too many shots came up empty, allowing Penn state to take a 25-23 lead with just over 2 minutes left in the half. But the offense rebounded this time on a 7-0 run, thanks to the suddenly surging Patrick McCaffery from deep, and closed out the half with a 30-25 lead.

The Hawkeyes took that momentum right into the second half. The three point barrage that ended the first half continued, thanks largely in part to the continued stellar play of Rebraca, and suddenly the lead was 10 at 41-31 with 15 minutes remaining, as the Nittany Lions went on a scoring drought. But still, Penn State would not go away, as their offensive drought ended and Iowa’s began, letting the Nittany Lions quickly cut the lead down to 3. That is, until Kris Murray was able to respond with a mother 3-point shot, which was a catalyst to get the lead back up to nine. Yet, the Hawkeyes couldn’t seem to truly put the Nittany Lions away. Any time the lead would get back out to nine, Penn State responded, but couldn’t pull it together as the clock ticked closer and closer to zero.

But as the game winded down under four minutes, the Hawkeyes took over as the Nittany Lions once again went on another scoring drought and let Iowa jump back out to a double-digit lead that finished things off, which was capped off by Keegan Murray hitting his first 3 pointer of the game to go up 64-49 with just 2 minutes to play. Murray had missed his first 6 attempts from deep.

This is another a solid win that certainly solidifies Iowa’s resume for the NCAA tournament. Questions about the offense — and Keegan’s scoring output — are valid to ask heading into Thursday’s home matchup against Purdue, but for now we’ll take the win and hope that home court advantage can be a factor going forward.

Crazy what happens when you actually get a weekend home game, right?