Iowa falls to Penn State 90-86 in double-overtime
Iowa now 4-6 in conference play with a game at Ohio State next on Thursday
By Pat Harty
Iowa’s game at Penn State on Monday was at this point of the season the most important game on the schedule, but not just because it was the next game.
It was the start of a three-game stretch in six days, and at least on paper, it was one of the best chances for Iowa to win a Big Ten road game.
It was also a game that Iowa, with a 4-5 record in conference play, couldn’t afford to lose with a game at Ohio State up next on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.
But that’s what happened as Penn State edged the Hawkeyes 90-86 in double overtime at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania.
Iowa sophomore forward Keegan Murray struggled for much of the game with foul trouble and with missing shots, but he delivered with the game on the line, tipping in a missed 3-point shot by Jordan Bohannon right before the clock expired to push the game into overtime with the scored knotted at 66.
“Just a phenomenal court-awareness play,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said on the Learfield post-game radio show. “I mean the shot was off and he just went under the basket and tipped it back in. Those kinds of plays are what he does. So I’m really proud of him.”
Murray was held scoreless in the first half, but he responded with 13 points in the second half, and then finished with 21 points.
But it wasn’t enough as Iowa (14-7, 4-6 Big Ten) lost for the third time in four games, and now has a major hill to climb in its quest to make the NCAA Tournament.
Should Iowa fail to make the NCAA Tournament, the players might look back at Monday’s loss as one of the biggest reasons why.
Monday’s game was in contrast to Iowa’s game against Penn State just nine days ago when the Hawkeyes prevailed 68-51 on Jan. 22 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Penn State struggled to make shots throughout the first game and unraveled down the stretch, whereas in Monday’s game, the Nittany Lions had an answer for everything that Iowa threw at them.
Iowa is now in danger of falling three games below .500 in conference play as it prepares to face Ohio State on Thursday.
And while there still is half of the conference schedule left to play, Iowa has to get on a roll before it’s too late.
Monday’s game against Penn State wouldn’t have been considered a quality win, but it is without question a costly loss because Penn State is considered a longshot to make the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa led 34-32 at halftime thanks mostly to 24 bench points.
Senior guard Connor McCaffery came off the bench and made four 3-point baskets in the first half and that matched how many threes he had made for the entire season.
Penn State dared Connor McCaffery to shoot as every Big Ten opponent has this season, but this time he made the opponent pay.
However, McCaffery suffered a right shoulder separation early in second half and didn’t return.
“We really need him, he had six rebounds and he always was in the right place, I mean 12 points, he was terrific,” said Fran McCaffery, who is Connor McCaffery’s father. “And you’re coming down the stretch and an overtime game, you need that kind of veteran experience out there.
“He’s got a separated shoulder. At first, they thought it might have been fractured because he got whacked down low and his shoulder popped out and popped right back in. It was really painful.”
Iowa only shot 35 percent from the field (27-of-77), was outrebounded by 10, and outscored 44-28 in the paint so it’s easy to see what went wrong in Monday’s game.
Iowa made 11 3-point baskets, while Penn State only made six, but two of Penn State’s threes came in overtime.
And now here comes Ohio State, which is coming off a loss at Purdue at the buzzer in its last game.
“The great thing about this league is that you have other opportunities,” Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa had four players score in double figures as sophomore forward Patrick McCaffery and senior forward Filip Rebraca finished with 16 and 11 points, respectively.
The game had 15 ties and 15 lead changes.
“They’re a lot better at home than they are on the road, definitely more confident and we knew that coming into it and we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Patrick McCaffery said of Penn State. “And we just didn’t do what it took to win down the stretch and we’ve just got to learn from it and keep moving.”
Following Thursday’s game at Ohio State, Iowa will face Minnesota on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.