The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Hawkeye men’s basketball suffered worst loss of the season

Penn State forward Donovan Jack (5) drives to the basket as Iowa forward Nicholas Baer (51) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

The No. 4 Iowa men’s basketball team — 20-5 entering theWednesday night matchup with Penn State — has had a lot of good wins so far this season, and perhaps equally impressive, not a single bad loss.

The 79-75 loss to the Nittany Lions was a bad loss.

Iowa traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, for a rematch with Penn State and found out early that the Nittany Lions had been waiting.

After a 73-49 Iowa victory on Feb. 3 in which Penn State shot 1-of-20 from beyond the arc, it was obvious that the game plan was to improve on that mark. Iowa jumped out to an 8-0 start, but Nittany Lion guard Shep Garner made his second 3 of the game to cut the deficit to 14-12.

From there, not only were the Lions a completely different team in the first half, but the game as a whole got all sorts of topsy-turvy.

One of the reasons the Nittany Lions shot so poorly in the first matchup was because they are easily the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference, but on this night, they started by going 7-of-14. Meanwhile, Iowa’s second-best scoring offense went 39 percent from the floor, and the worst-shooting Nittany Lions shot 56 percent.

“Garner is a good shooter,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’d been off for the last couple games, I mean that kid’s a good shooter … they’ve got a lot of different guys who are capable.”

The Hawkeyes would have been blown out at halftime if not for 12 points off 10 Penn State turnovers and nine free throws. As it was, they trailed 38-31.

Predictably, the Hawkeyes were a little better to begin the second half and the Nittany Lions a little worse. Iowa began the half 4-of-7 from the floor but didn’t gain any ground, still trailing 48-41 at the first media time-out. Iowa continued to make uncharacteristic mistakes, and 12 turnovers played a large role in preventing the Hawkeyes from ever closing the gap all the way.

“I don’t think we moved the ball as well as we should have or could have,” McCaffery said. “We turned the ball over more in the second half.”

Penn State cooled off from beyond the arc, going just 3-of-14 in the second half and allowing the Hawkeyes to cut the lead to 48-45 at the second media stoppage.

The Nittany Lions had slowed down from the outside, but their offense looked as good as it has all season and was always just good enough to keep Iowa away. Iowa trailed by 6 with 10 minutes remaining and again by 3 with fewer than four minutes remaining before a 6-0 run pushed Penn State to a 67-60 advantage with only 1:36 remaining.

Peter Jok hit a pair of 3-pointers to make it close late, but Penn State ultimately pulled off the unlikely upset.

Jok had a game-high 28 points, but the X-factor, capturing the unlikeliness of the way the game played out, was Lion senior Donovan Jack. After averaging 3.9 points per game this season, Jack posted a career-high 19.

“You just go back to work,” McCaffery said.

The Hawkeyes fell to 20-6 on the season, 10-3 in the conference, and they have a week off before facing Wisconsin on Feb. 24 in Carver-Hawkeye.

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