IOWA CITY, Iowa — Penn State’s underclassmen came through in their Big Ten opener, securing a key league road win a month ahead of schedule.
Iowa’s kids are still learning how to play together.
Sophomore Lamar Stevens scored 22 points, fellow sophomore Mike Watkins added 19 and Penn State held off Iowa 77-73 on Saturday, snapping a 12-game road losing streak against the Hawkeyes.
Tony Carr, also a second-year player, scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half for the Nittany Lions (7-2, 1-0), who never trailed in picking up their first win in Iowa City since 2001.
“It shows me we’re taking small steps to becoming the team that I envision for this program,” Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. “We grew up and matured a little bit in this game.”
Penn State buried a season-high 12 3s on 23 attempts, including one from Carr that put it up 67-59 with just under five minutes left.
Iowa (4-4, 0-1) rallied, pulling within 69-67 on sophomore Tyler Cook’s emphatic dunk and free throw with 1:11 left.
But the young Nittany Lions stepped up.
Stevens hit a contested jumper at the top of the key with 41 seconds left and the shot clock set to expire. Watkins then broke past Iowa’s defense for an uncontested dunk and a 73-69 lead with 22 seconds to go.
Stevens’ free throws with 4.3 seconds left pushed Penn State’s lead back to four points.
Cook had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Iowa, which suffered its fourth loss in five games. The Hawkeyes turned it over 18 times.
“I thought out decision-making at times was really poor,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We just have to be better with our execution in a lot of ways.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Penn State: This was a nice bounce-back for the Nittany Lions, who lost to N.C. State 85-78 on the road on Wednesday. But they can’t expect to hit so many 3s night in and night out — not after entering play shooting just under 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Iowa: As strange as it sounds, the Hawkeyes — who outrebounded Penn State 39-30 — actually made strides after getting their doors blown off in the second half of a 79-55 loss at Virginia Tech on Tuesday. But Iowa also hit just four 3s.
Carr also had nine assists and six rebounds. But it also took Carr, Penn State’s leading scorer, 15 shots to get those 16 points. … Isaiah Moss scored 13 points but had four turnovers for the Hawkeyes. … The Nittany Lions went to the line just 11 times but made nine of those free throws. Iowa, on the other hand, was 13 of 21 at the line. … Iowa sophomore point guard Jordan Bohannon had eight points and four assists in 34 minutes. … Penn State’s bench went scoreless.
OH SO CLOSE
Even though Iowa never led, there were countless moments when the Hawkeyes appeared on the verge of taking over. But beyond the turnovers, missed free throws and lack of defensive stops were buckets left unmade in key moments for the Hawkeyes — despite shooting 51 percent from the floor. What the Hawkeyes appear to miss most from departed senior Peter Jok is the ability to get a contested jumper in big situations. “I thought our defense was much more active in the second half. They made big shots,” McCaffery said.
HE SAID IT
“We have tendencies of showing how great we can play. We’ve got to get rid of these slow starts and this on-and-off thing,” Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl said. Penn State scored on its first six possessions.
Penn State hosts Wisconsin on Monday. The Badgers were crushed by 25 at home against Ohio State on Saturday.
Iowa travels to face Indiana on Monday. The Hoosiers were drubbed by Michigan 69-55 on Saturday.