Sometimes the basketball gods smile on your homely ass and allow you to snatch ill-deserved victory from the jaws of defeat. And sometimes the basketball gods seem like they're going to smile on your homely ass and let you steal a win from likely defeat... only to decide that, no, a loss is exactly what you'll get after all. You can probably tell what happened to the Iowa Hawkeyes in their game with Penn State tonight.
Still, when Keegan Murray hit an improbable, twisting putback layup as time expired in regulation to tie the game and send it into overtime... well, you had to think someone or something was on Iowa's side, right?
Seriously, look at that shot:
Absurd. Completely and utterly absurd.
And all for naught. After another two overtime periods, 10 minutes of game action, and 44 combined points, Iowa fell to Penn State 90-86 in the perpetually-sleepy Bryce Jordan Center.
The fact that the game even managed to get that far -- or be that close at the end -- was somewhat perplexing, though. Iowa shot the ball 77 times (albeit, in 50 minutes of game action), but made just 27 of those attempts, making a not-so-sizzling 35% from the field. Penn State shot 45% from the floor, beat Iowa on the glass (53-43 overall, though the offensive boards were a wash; 15-14 for PSU), and dominated the Hawks in the paint, 44-28. The game was close at all because Iowa did a bit more damage at the free throw line (21/28 versus 18/24) and a lot more damage from long range (11/31 vs 6/24). (But of course Penn State made a key three-pointer -- pretty well-contested, no less -- to tie the game at the end of the first overtime session.) But Iowa didn't shoot the ball well -- again. They scored 86 points, sure, but over 50 minutes of action. They averaged a fairly pedestrian (especially for them) 1.04 points per possession in this game and had a few long stretches without field goals (especially in the second half). Iowa's offense has had more than a few brownouts lately and that's a big reason why they're 1-3 in their last four games -- as well as the biggest reason why they've suffered bad losses in their two road trips (at Rutgers, at Penn State).
Keegan Murray led Iowa with 21 points, but he shot just 6/18 from the floor (2/7 from long range). All of his points came in the second half or overtime; Murray had a miserable first half, going 0/5 from the floor and playing just six minutes before picking up two quick fouls and getting exiled to ye olde two-foul jail for the remainder of the half. Iowa's most able assistants in this game were, somewhat surprisingly, Patrick and Connor McCaffery. Patrick's performance was less-surprising; he's posted double-figures in scoring in five straight games and in 8 of 10 Big Ten games this year. He had 16 points on 6/13 shooting (3/6 from deep) and a team-high 7 rebounds and, like Keegs, did most of his damage in the second half and overtime (he had 5 points on 2/4 shooting in the first half). Connor's points explosion was far more surprising. He entered this game with nine points in his last nine Big Ten games... combined. So of course he exploded for 12 points on 4/6 shooting (all 3s) in the first half. He was the biggest reason why Iowa had a slim 34-32 lead at halftime. Alas, his hot shooting did not persist after the break; he was 0/2 after the opening 20 minutes. He also suffered an arm/shoulder injury late in the game that looked painful; hopefully it's not a serious injury. Filip Rebraca was the last Hawkeye in double figures, with 11 points on 4/5 shooting and 6 rebounds.
It was fortunate that Iowa's forwards were up to carrying the scoring load tonight, because the back court absolutely was not. Iowa's primary guards -- Joe Toussaint, Jordan Bohannon, Ahron Ulis, and Tony Perkins -- were a combined 2/22 from the field tonight. That's right: two-for-twenty-two. Ulis and Bohannon each shot 0/7 from the floor, while Toussaint was 0/4. Perkins made the only two baskets among that foursome of guards. They did manage to contribute in some other ways -- Bohannon and Ulis each had a team-high five assists, Toussaint had five rebounds, Perkins had two rebounds and a steal, and Ulis did go 7/8 at the free throw line -- but it's really hard to overcome that much bad shooting from the guards. They missed layups, they missed three-pointers, they missed mid-range jumpers... you name it, they pretty much missed it in this game.
For most of the season, Iowa has struggled to secure marquee wins -- their victories over Utah State and Indiana moved into Quad 1 status over the weekend thanks to some recent triumphs by the Aggies and Hoosiers -- but they've also managed to do a good job of avoiding bad losses. Unfortunately, they're faltering on that front lately -- they've lost three of four games now, and two straight road games, at Rutgers and at Penn State. Both of those games were winnable if the Iowa offense had been more proficient and not a plugged-up toilet, but here we are. Iowa needs to figure out how to un-plug that offense and get some wins soon, or they'll soon find their NCAA Tournament hopes getting flushed away, too.
NEXT: Iowa heads to Columbus, OH to take on #16 Ohio State (13-5, 6-3 Big Ten) on Thursday, February 3 (7 PM CT, FS1).