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

Iowa men’s basketball notebook | Hawkeyes prepare for bounce back against disruptive Penn State squad

After topping Iowa by ten points in Happy Valley. Penn State is now without its leading scorer, but has found new contributors.
Shaely Odean
Members of the Iowa men’s basketball team react during a mens basketball game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers in overtime, 88-86.

The Iowa men’s basketball team has three games remaining to improve its seeding for next month’s Big Ten tournament, as well as its case for the NCAA tournament further down the line. The first opponent in that trio of games is Penn State. The Nittany Lions have an inferior overall record and NET rating compared to the Hawkeyes but will be looking for a regular-season sweep of Iowa when they arrive at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for an 8 p.m.tilt on Tuesday. 

Sitting at 14-14 on the season and 8-9 in conference play, Penn State holds the tiebreaker with Iowa for sole possession of eighth place, as it previously trounced the Hawkeyes, 89-79, in Happy Valley on Feb. 8. Iowa blew a seven-point second-half lead, coughing up 18 turnovers and allowing Penn State to shoot 52 percent from the floor – a far cry from the team’s 44.2 percent season average. 

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery kept his analysis of that contest short and to the point at media availability on Monday. 

“When you turn it over 18 times, you’re going to lose. Pretty simple,” he said. 

For Iowa first-year guard Brock Harding, part of the Nittany Lions’ defensive success was their ability to take Hawkeye senior guard Tony Perkins out of the game. Matched up against Penn State guard Ace Baldwin Jr. for much of the affair, Perkins scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. 

“[Perkins] couldn’t really get open so we were relying on a lot of our other guys to take the ball down the court and we really let [Penn State] speed us up,” Harding said. “But I think we figured out some things that we’re going to do differently, how we’re going to attack their pressure, trying to beat it down the court and use it against them.” 

Since its triumph over Iowa, Penn State dropped three games in a row before coming back to life with an upset win over then-12th-ranked Illinois. Head coach Mike Rhoades’ squad followed up that performance with a road victory against Indiana – the team’s first win in Assembly Hall since 2014. 

A transfer from VCU over the offseason, Baldwin led the team in scoring against the Hoosiers with 23,  as well as team-highs with nine assists and four steals. His 5.7 dimes and 2.8 steals per game rank fifth and first, respectively, in the Big Ten. 

Penn State’s leading scorer this season has been second-year guard Kanye Clary, but as of Feb. 19, is no longer with the team. Rhoades called Clary’s absence a “coach’s decision.” Clary did not travel with the team for its game against Nebraska on Feb. 17. 

McCaffery said filling in for Clary has been a three-man group of Baldwin, guard Nick Kern Jr., and forward Zach Hicks. While Kern and Hicks are each averaging less than nine points per game this season, the pair have delivered as of late. 

Against Illinois, Kern piled in 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Hicks pitched in 13, including three free throws with three seconds remaining to lift Penn State to a one-point victory. Three days later in Bloomington, the pair each scored in double figures while shooting at least 45 percent from the floor. 

Even though Penn State dwells in the bottom third of the conference in team field goal percentage, the Nittany Lions rank first in opponent three-point percentage and turnover margin – forcing a Big Ten-best 15.1 giveaways from their foes. For McCaffery, plenty of that disruption is found in their press. 

“They’re quick, aggressive, active, and connected,” he said of the Nittany Lions. “They’ve got long, athletic guys who stay after you and have good instincts. They help the helper, rotate, keep pressure on the ball, and can sustain effort.” 

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Shaely Odean
Shaely Odean, Photojournalist
Shaely Odean is a transfer student at the University of Iowa, currently in her third year. She is pursuing double majors in Journalism and Strategic Communications, as well as Sustainability Sciences. Shaely works as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan, and her passion lies in environmental issues. Before joining the University of Iowa, she attended Kirkwood Community College, where she served as the photo editor for the Kirkwood Communique.