So close. Seriously, guys, we were this close to feeling the bottom drop out of the roller coaster for the umpteenth time this season. This game had an uneasy feeling from the start. Whether it was Penn State scoring on eight straight first half possessions to jump out to a 23-12 lead or when Iowa had a 58-51 lead and momentum on their side with nine minutes left in the game, only to find themselves down 66-64 six minutes later. There were no moments of comfort in this game.
At just 2-8 during his five year tenure, Iowa hasn't been a good overtime team under Fran McCaffery. And I don't know about you, but I was dreading extra time. But there was something different about this game. Because no matter how well Penn State was playing for certain streaks of time, this game also never felt out of reach for Iowa. They didn't start panicking and throwing up bad shots when they were down double-figures in the first half. The Hawkeyes shot the ball absolutely miserably near the rim, but they didn't back down and let Penn State force them away from their strength. Instead, when the crowd got on their feet in the Bryce Jordan Center, Iowa either knocked down a clutch three or they continued to take the ball to basket and draw fouls.
Iowa narrowly avoided the loss and that's all that matters. This was a solid victory against a Penn State team that has played everybody close at home this year. I don't care how pretty or ugly it is. All that matters is that Iowa got the win.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.94, Penn State 0.88
First Half Possessions: 33
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.08, Penn State 1.14
Second Half Possessions: 34
Overtime Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.30, Penn State 0.90
Overtime Possessions: 10
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.05, Penn State 1.00
Iowa lost this category due to terrible shooting from within the arc. Neither team shot well from two point range on the night and both teams were in danger of shooting better from longer distance than from closer distance. Penn State eventually had their field goal percentage on twos go above their field goal percentage from downtown, but Iowa never managed that feat. The Hawkeyes shot just 34.8% on twos against Penn State, while making 38.1% of their threes.
So what was the problem? Surely a number like that means their shot selection was less than stellar, right? Normally that would be a good guess, but not this time.
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG|
Instead, the Hawkeyes played to their usual strength in the post, but shot an absolutely terrible 14-34 when they got the ball near the rim. 7 of those attempts were blocked by Penn State, but that still doesn't account for the other 13 misses. Luckily, the lifeline for Iowa was the fact that they were able to draw fouls after halftime. Oh, and the combined 7-15 shooting from outside by Josh Oglesby and Jarrod Uthoff didn't hurt either.
As for Penn State, well, they were streaky as hell with their shooting.
|Penn State||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG|
They were lights out for eight straight possessions early in the game, where they made 4 threes in a row, scored 6 points in the paint, and knocked down a long two. The Nittany Lions peaked at a 78.6% eFG% about midway through the first half and then came the collapse.
Iowa switched to a 2-3 zone and suddenly the looks in the paint that Penn State was getting early on were gone and the well from three point range had dried up. They managed just 6 points in the final 11 minutes of the half on 3-11 shooting, including going 0-7 from beyond the arc. Problems were also compounded by the fact that they gave up the ball 7 times during that stretch.
Penn State's three point shooting would come back after the intermission, and Iowa's defense would look shaky the rest of the way. The shooting advantage almost allowed for a Nittany Lion upset, but it ended up being other factors that made the difference in this game.
Advantage: Penn State
Turnovers were pretty killer for the Nittany Lions against Iowa. Not only did their offense break down once their threes stopped falling, but it also fell apart once Iowa started playing more of their 1-2-2 three-quarter court press. Penn State struggled to get the ball up the court and were throwing long cross-court passes that were picked by Iowa.
Penn State's 3/11 shooting and 7 turnovers to end the first half helped Iowa avoid letting this game get out of hand. But the most important turnover came in overtime with 30 seconds left in the game. Coming off of Mike Gesell hitting only 1 of his 2 free throw attempts, Aaron White promptly baited D.J. Newbill into thinking he was running down the court before jumping the inbounds pass and forcing Penn State to foul him. White went on to hit both of his free ones and Iowa was in control from then on.
Overall, Iowa outscored Penn State 20-13 off of turnovers for the game. This was a big factor in Iowa heading home with a win.
This was a weird category. Neither team grabbed a whole lot of offensive rebounds in the first half, but then both teams grabbed a bunch in the second half. Iowa was actually winning this category up until about the final five minutes of the second half. But then Penn State had two offensive possessions in which they came away with 5 total offensive rebounds. They came away with 0 points from those 2 possessions, but they hauled in 5 of their 9 offensive rebounds for the second half during those possessions. And then in overtime Penn State also had another possession in which they came away with 2 offensive rebounds. They actually scored 2 points off of that possession, but out of those 7 offensive rebounds, Penn State only scored 2 points.
My point being, they scored only 2 points on 7 of their 13 offensive rebounds for the game. Iowa outscored them 15-10 on second chance opportunities despite losing the offensive rebounding battle. So, yes, Penn State technically won this category, but Iowa took better advantage of their second chances.
Advantage: Penn State
Free Throw Rate
Outside of turnovers, this was the other important category for Iowa. Not merely for the frequency with which they visited the line, though, because Penn State got to the foul line quite a bit, too. Rather, free throw shooting for Iowa was a huge boon. The important takeaway from this category is the fact that Iowa made 25 of their 27 free throws, which was good for a whopping 92.6%. Penn State, on the other hand, made just 13 of their 20 free throw attempts, which was only a paltry 65%.
This category is a little skewed in Iowa's favor because they took 6 free throws at the end of overtime when Penn State had to put them on the line. However, Iowa took full advantage of the free throw line when they got there and that makes this category tip fully in their favor.
Overall: Iowa won 2 of 4 Factors
This was a veteran-led game for the Hawkeyes. All three of Iowa's seniors scored double-digit points and their third-year starting point guard was an offensive and defensive catalyst.
Starting with Aaron White, he was again the best player on the court, according to adjusted game score per minute. He played all but 2 minutes of this one and he gave Iowa every bit of value that he could, scoring 21 points on 5-10 shooting from the field and 11-12 shooting from the free throw line.
(Shot charts courtesy of Shot Analytics.)
White also secured himself a double-double, as he grabbed 14 rebounds, of which 5 were on the offensive glass. Most importantly, though, he fully established himself as the player of the game when he came up with his 1 huge steal and made his final 6 free throws in the last 30 seconds of overtime.
After White, it's a close second between Mike Gesell and Josh Oglesby who was more important to Iowa's win. I'm going with Mike Gesell because he played 40 minutes, and Iowa looked lost without him on the court. When Gesell went out of the game after taking a nasty fall and hitting his head, Iowa quickly allowed Penn State back into the game. When he came back into the game he promptly took a charge, and then in overtime he assisted on a Jarrod Uthoff three pointer and then followed that up by making one of his own.
Gesell finished the game with 14 points, 7 assists, and 5 steals.
He continued to show improvement at finishing near the rim. He went 3-5 on those shots against Penn State, including showing off a nice pump fake on one of his lay ups. Additionally, he only turned the ball over twice in comparison to his 7 assists and the 5 turnovers he forced the other team into.
Then we have Josh Oglesby, who, despite having a rough senior year, continued his recent streak of good play on Saturday evening. The senior shooting guard scored 12 points on 4-8 shooting from outside the arc.
He also threw one of his patented alley-oops to Aaron White. But Oglesby's shooting was key in helping keep Iowa in this game. Since the Hawkeyes missed so many shots inside, the outside game was huge, and Oglesby made half of Iowa's field goals from out there.
And our final senior, Gabe Olaseni, put in 12 points and 7 rebounds (2 offensive) for Iowa.
He only made 2 of his 8 field goal attempts, but he drew a lot of contact and finished 8-8 at the free throw line. Adam Woodbury had an off night, so it was important to get production from Gabe and he more than did his job.
Finally, Jarrod Uthoff was a bit off against Penn State, but he was also still pretty damn valuable. Even though he hit only 4 of his 14 field goal attempts, Uthoff still managed 11 points thanks to shooting 3-7 from downtown.
He also did his usual box score-stuffing by grabbing 8 rebounds (1 offensive), dishing out 3 assists, and recording 1 block and 1 steal on the defensive end of the court. Despite the cold night from two point range, it was still a good night for Uthoff.
Let's hit some bullet points.
- Let's talk improvement, shall we? Mike Gesell has had some issues finishing around the rim during his career at Iowa. He would often get his shot altered if it wasn't blocked, and those issues carried over into the beginning of this year. However, since November ended, Iowa's starting point guard has looked much better when he drives the ball:
- You want more improvement? Well, let's talk Josh Oglesby. After a terrible first three months, the veteran sharp-shooter is now shooting 39% from downtown in Big Ten play. Hopefully he is finding his rhythm for the final leg of the season.
- And even though Aaron White went 0-1 from three point range against Penn State, we also shouldn't leave out how good he's looked from long range over the last two months.
- White is now shooting 34.6% from three point range against Big Ten competition this season. Considering he's hovered around 25-28% every season he's been at Iowa, this is encouraging. It's ridiculously small sample since he doesn't shoot all that many of them, but it's still nice to see success.
- Lastly, White also threw down two more dunks against Penn State. He still has a dunk in every Big Ten game and has not gone a game without a dunk since the UNI debacle. That brings him to 51 on the season and extends his streak to 17 games. Here's the updated table:
|Aaron White Dunk-O-Meter||Freshman||Sophomore||Junior||Senior||Career|
|Field Goals Made||136||140||143||132||551|
Iowa finishes the season with a trip to Bloomington tomorrow and a home game Saturday against Northwestern. Both are winnable, but I could easily see this team splitting the two. Of course I want Iowa to win both, but if they can at least keep it close against Indiana and take care of business at home against Northwestern, I will be happy.