Penn St.-Iowa Preview
Iowa got back on track after a loss to a fellow Big Ten contender by easily handling one of the weaker teams in the conference. It needs to stay focused against another one its next time out.
The No. 5 Hawkeyes have won 14 in a row at home and 10 straight there over Penn State, and they'll be looking for a bit of revenge Wednesday night against a struggling Nittany Lions squad that beat them in last year's league tournament.
Iowa (17-4, 8-1) rebounded nicely from a 74-68 loss at then-No. 8 Maryland on Thursday by routing visiting Northwestern 85-71 on Sunday. Jarrod Uthoff overcame a sub-par effort against the Terrapins by scoring 19 of his 23 points in the first half, and Peter Jok took over with 22 of his 26 after the break.
Uthoff, tops in the Big Ten with 18.6 points per game, had a season-low nine and shot 2 of 13 on Thursday. His timing for the bounce-back was perfect as the senior was featured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, which contained a story on the Hawkeyes.
''It's just great to see him come back the way we expect him to play,'' said coach Fran McCaffrey, whose team led by 29 before the Wildcats cut into the lead against the Hawkeyes' backups.
Jok went 4 of 7 from 3-point range and made 10 of 12 free throws. Iowa had 12 steals and converted 16 turnovers into 24 points.
A cause for concern might be the Hawkeyes' 19 combined assists in the past two games. They're averaging 17.0, a mark that's in the top 25 in the country.
"Just make sure we keep sharing the ball. I think that's been the staple of our team," McCaffrey said.
Northwestern and Penn State certainly don't match the caliber of some of Iowa's opponents in the loaded Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes can't afford any letdowns as they try to keep the pressure on in the race for the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. They're battling Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Purdue for the top spot.
Nearly a year has passed since Iowa's effort cost it a game at home, however. The Hawkeyes have outscored opponents by an average of 85.2-67.7 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season, and they haven't lost there since Feb. 12.
Iowa has outscored Penn State 74.5-60.5 during its win streak in the series in Iowa City, but it's the Nittany Lions (11-11, 2-7) that came away with the victory in the most recent matchup. Iowa was outscored 48-31 in the second half as Penn State won the second-round meeting in the conference tournament 67-58 on March 12.
Victories have been hard to come by for the Lions of late, however. They fell 79-72 to Michigan at Madison Square Garden on Saturday for their third straight defeat and seventh in nine games.
''We've got a youthful team and when they make mistakes, because they want to be perfect, it hurts for that 3-to-4 minute spurt that the other team goes on,'' coach Patrick Chambers said. ''These younger kids are getting better and I am gaining more confidence in them.''
Senior Brandon Taylor scored 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting and sophomore Shep Garner had 22 after totaling 31 in his previous four games. Garner, though, went 7 of 18 from the field for a Penn State squad that was 9 of 29 from beyond the arc.
The Lions' 29.9 mark on 3s is last in the Big Ten.
Garner shot 38.9 percent in his first 17 contests but has hit 29.4 in his last five, including 8 for 30 from behind the arc.