GAME NOTES: Still trying for their first Big Ten Conference victory of the season, the Penn State Nittany Lions welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes to the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night.
Iowa had lost four of its previous five games heading into last Saturday's home contest against Northwestern, but it got back on track with a 71-57 triumph to improve to 15-9 overall and 4-7 in the Big Ten. Despite the Hawkeyes' stellar home record (12-2), they haven't had much luck in seven true road tests (1-6).
As the Big Ten cellar-dweller, Penn State has lost all 11 of its conference bouts, having yet to post a win here in 2013. The Nittany Lions traveled to Nebraska last Saturday and came away with a 67-53 loss.
Iowa leads the all-time series with Penn State, 24-13, which includes a 76-67 home victory on Jan. 31.
The Hawkeyes had no problem dismissing Northwestern over the weekend, shooting 24-of-50 from the field (.480) and 19-of-22 from the foul line (.864), while holding the Wildcats to 35.1 percent shooting accuracy. Roy Devyn Marble led the way for Iowa with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while also adding five rebounds and five assists to his stat line. Josh Oglesby was the only other Hawkeye to score in double figures on the afternoon, but 10 players had at least one field goal in the victory. Despite sporting a rather modest field goal percentage this season (.424), Iowa has a habit of getting to the line, as it makes 71.1 percent of its nearly 25 trips to the stripe per tilt, which is a big reason for its impressive scoring effort (72.2 ppg). Aaron White is the team's top option in the frontcourt, making 50 percent of his shots for 13.5 ppg, while adding a team-high 5.9 rpg. Marble brings 13.2 ppg to the mix, albeit on less than 40 percent shooting, and Mike Gesell chips in with 8.8 ppg.
Penn State's defensive effort against Nebraska the last time out was strong, holding the Huskers to a mere 32.6 percent from the field, but it was ultimately plagued by foul trouble as it sent the home team to the free-throw line 41 times. The Nittany Lions certainly weren't helped by their offensive effort, as they shot a poor 14-of-48 from the floor (.292) and committed 14 turnovers. D.J. Newbill (17 points) and Jermaine Marshall (16 points) made up for poor shooting nights by combining to make 17-of-20 from the free-throw line, while Ross Travis was solid in the paint, hauling in 13 rebounds. PSU has the Big Ten's second-worst scoring offense (60.3 ppg) and ranks last in the league in scoring defense (67.0 ppg), scoring margin (-6.7), field goal percentage (.381), 3-point field goal percentage (.267) and turnover margin (-1.1). Surprisingly enough, it has two of the league's top scorers in Newbill (15.8 ppg) and Marshall (14.7 ppg), but there isn't much else behind them, with Travis (6.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) serving as the team's next most productive asset.
If Penn State hopes to win a conference game this season, there's no better time to do so than against an Iowa team that struggles on the road. However, the Lions have played so poorly for such a long stretch that it's tough to envision them piecing together a winning effort in this one.
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