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Not enough: Penn State 90, Iowa 86

Keegan Murray couldn’t get it going until it was too late as the Hawkeyes sustain their worse loss of the season

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes (14-7, 4-6) eclipsed their season average of 82.3, it just took 50 minutes, in a 90-86 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-9, 4-6).

It was another game where Keegan Murray struggled to get going, with 0 points on 5 shots and 2 fouls in just 7 first half minutes. Without him going, Iowa faced many of the issues they had against Penn State the first time around, as the deficit touched double digits briefly. With flow or made baskets, tough sledding on the boards, and an inability to turn the Nitts over like the first outing, Iowa turned to an unlikely source as the half drew to a close: Connor McCaffery.

His 4 threes on 6 shots in the first half tied his season total from behind the arc. More importantly, the three he drained in a row inside of 3 minutes turned the five point deficit into a four point lead. It was halved by a couple Jon Harrar free throws but the Hawkeyes led at half 34-32.

Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes struggled to shift out of neutral without the found money from Connor, and quickly ceded the lead in the second frame. Particularly frustrating were the second chance baskets from Penn State, as 11 points came off of 9 offensive boards. They finished with 17 off 15, with Harrar leading the way with a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.

After Keegan entered a 53-53 game with just over 9 minutes left, he quickly scored a dunk to tie it back up at 55. Yet the Hawkeyes couldn’t find the basket until two free throws from him with 3:55 to go. Penn State could only score four points, which gave Iowa a chance down the stretch.

Two baskets on Sam Sessoms shots led to Penn State baskets and a 63-57 lead. Patrick McCaffery and Keegan Murray added 5 points around another Sessoms basket.

Down three, Iowa elected to defend instead of foul with 0:54 left. It resulted in one of their best defensive possessions: a Keegan block/shot clock violation. On the ensuing possession, the lane opened up for a Patrick drive. Sessoms went 1/2 at the stripe with 8.4 seconds left which led to an absolute stunner of a buzzer beater off a Jordan Bohannon miss:

The overtime period started off with another Keegan basket, though PSU quickly countered. Filip Rebraca and Ahron Ulis went a combined 3/4 at the stripe which was wiped away by a Seth Lundy three. A Greg Lee free throw put Penn State up 1.

Murray put back his own shot. Harrar hit a couple from the stripe. Then Ahron Ulis found his way to the line for four more points, giving Iowa a 78-75 lead with 23 seconds left.

It proved not to be enough as a desperation heave from Myles Dread found it’s way to the basket over the outstretched arms of Keegan Murray. That’s the shot you want Penn State taking with 8 seconds left. How much the extra step helped, we’ll never know:

The second overtime started well enough, with a Rebraca basket. But an and-one from Jalen Picket got the lead right back for Penn State. He hit another while Iowa missed three straight jumpers to stay down three.

Free throws - another pair from Ulis and one from Keegan - were the only relevant scoring Iowa had the rest of the way. Another Sessoms circus shot meant the lead was 2 before Keegan missed a wing three which could have given Iowa the lead with 14 seconds left.

Dread was able to provide it with four more free throws. Keegan’s final gave Iowa their 86 and a prayer before Dread’s last pair made it 90.

It’s a tough loss, especially considering Iowa is playing three games this week. Can’t let this loss turn into three, considering the Thursday game at Ohio State was the one I chalked up as a loss heading into tonight.

Don’t count them wins before they hatch.

Odds & ends

  • Connor sustained a really weird arm injury in the second half which sent him to the locker room. Did Penn State fans boo? Of course they did! Great game from him other than one point he was leading Iowa in scoring, rebounding, and steals.
  • Tough night for Bohannon, especially when his opening minute free throws proved to be his only points scored. 2 points, 0/7 shooting, and 5 assists in his 35 minutes. His defense has been better, but he can only provide so much resistance as an undersized shooting guard.
  • Patrick continues to have his moments, finishing with 16 points on 13 shots. 7 rebounds!
  • Of course this was the best three point shooting night (11/31, 36%) Iowa has had since their loss to Wisconsin.
  • A stat which may be relevant to some...Payton Sandfort was a team-high +10 in his 11 minutes. It was the most time he’s played in conference play, with the bulk of it coming in the first half.
  • The offense was ... frustrating ... down the stretch. Iowa couldn’t get a clean shot off at the end of the first OT and Ulis regularly found himself in dribble-heavy spots. It’d be fine if we didn’t live in a world where Iowa has Keegan Murray, who finished with 21 points.