It was like watching Sisyphus push a basketball.
Tyler Cook went off for 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and a pair of highlight-worthy dunks, but Iowa couldn't overcome an early 10-point deficit and dropped its Big Ten opener to Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 77-73. It's the first time Iowa has lost to PSU at home since 2001, and it's a game that Iowa would probably like to have back.
Like many games last season, Iowa found itself down big early and spent most of the game playing from behind. Iowa had one of the most reliable scorers in the country in Peter Jok last year, though; here, the Hawkeyes never got the push they needed to take the lead. Indeed, even for as closely as the game tracked, the Hawkeyes never led once, and the last tie was 2-2.
And lord, the opportunities were there. Here's a look at Iowa's opportunities when the game was within 3 points in the second half:
- Isaiah Moss charge
- Isaiah Moss turnover
- Jordan Bohannon missed three-pointer
- Tyler Cook turnover
- Cordell Pemsl missed layup
- Tyler Cook missed dunk
- Jack Nunge turnover
- Nicholas Baer missed three-pointer
- Tyler Cook missed front end of 1-and-1
- Cordell Pemsl turnover
- Jordan Bohannon turnover
Tyler Cook's ridiculous and-1 dunk finally got the Hawkeyes within 2 points, but the Nittany Lions scored 2 points on each of their last four possessions (three successful trips to the line and a wide-open dunk) to put the game away.
There's so much to point to as a problem here that it's honestly a little surprising that the Hawkeyes were even close. Penn State shot over 50% from downtown, forced 18 turnovers and outscored the Hawkeyes off turnovers 22-14. Meanwhile, Jordan Bohannon was held to single-digit scoring for the third time this season, Nicholas Baer struggled from the floor in his second game back from injury (2-for-7, 0-for-3 from deep) and the freshmen Luka Garza and Jack Nunge looked... well, a lot like freshmen. Combine that with another poor day at the line (13-for-21 as a team) and seriously: how was this game even close?
Let's point out here that Penn State has played well this season and looks miles better than the typical parade of sadness the Nittany Lions usually trot out. This is one fifty-fifty game down as a win for PSU, and the B1G underbelly is soft enough that they should challenge for 20+ wins. So no, this was not a "how could you lose to THESE bums" situation, despite what history would have you believe.
Still, the opportunities were absolutely there, and that's what makes losses like these so frustrating — even as the end result was almost exactly where Ken Pomeroy (77-75 PSU) and Las Vegas (PSU -3.5 or 4, depending on where you looked) had predicted. The Hawkeyes have a lot to figure out before the Big Ten season if Fran McCaffery wants to keep his team as competitive as it's been in recent years.