By Pat Harty
This one hurts now, but it also could hurt later.
The Iowa men’s basketball team erased a 10-point deficit in the first half against Penn State on Thursday, and would go on to build a seven-point lead in the second half before unraveling down the stretch in a 89-79 loss in State College, Pennsylvania.
Iowa was trying to climb back to .500 in Big Ten play, but instead fell to 5-7 in league play and 13-10 overall.
The Hawkeyes entered the game averaging fewer than 10 turnovers per game despite their fast-pace offense, but finished with 18 turnovers, including 10 in the first half.
Iowa also struggled on defense as Penn State shot 52 percent from the field and made 12-of-23 shots from 3-point range.
Graduate transfer forward Ben Krikke broke out of a slump by scoring 22 points, but the only other Hawkeyes to score in double figures were senior guard Tony Perkins and senior forward Patrick McCaffery with just 11 points.
Perkins had scored at least 20 points in each of the past five games, so for him to barely get half of that total in Thursday’s game was a problem.
Iowa now faces a quick turnaround against Minnesota on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Gophers defeated Michigan State 59-56 on Tuesday and are now 6-5 in Big Ten play for the first time in five seasons as third-year head coach Ben Johnson continues to lead a rebuild.
Iowa built a 17-10 lead in the first half, but then was held scoreless for nearly six minutes, turning a seven-point lead into a 10-point deficit.
Iowa trailed 42-34 at halftime, and it was easy to see why from a statistical standpoint.
Iowa committed 10 turnovers in the first half against Penn State’s pressure defense and was also outscored 18-6 from 3-point range, making just 2-of-8 shots from behind the arc.
Iowa also struggled defensively in the first half as Penn State shot 52 percent from the field and made 6-of-13 shots from 3-point range.
Fran McCaffery’s teams are known for scoring points in a hurry, though, so trailing by eight points at the break was hardly reason to panic.
Iowa would go to lead in the second half, but couldn’t finish the job.
And now with just eight games left in the regular season, Iowa has to start stacking up some wins to improve its postseason chances, but so far, this team hasn’t shown that ability.
Iowa is trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season.
And while there still are enough games left to achieve that goal, this loss could come back to haunt Iowa.