UNIVERSITY PARK — Three days later, the late-game magic ran out for Penn State.
The big 3s that propelled the Lions’ shocking comeback win over Indiana on Wednesday didn’t drop during Penn State’s late charge against Iowa on Saturday. The steals, so crucial against the Hoosiers, were kept to a minimum by an experienced Hawkeyes team.
The Lions cut a 10-point deficit to five with just more than four minutes to play. But No. 16 Iowa rebuilt its double-digit lead in 64 seconds and never looked back in an 82-70 win over Penn State in Big Ten play at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“You have to beat them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “You’re not going to basically outfight them.”
The Hawkeyes (19-6, 8-4) finally put the Lions (13-13, 4-9) away with less than three minutes to play. Four Iowa players scored in double figures.
Melsahn Basabe led the way with 16, Roy Devyn Marble added 15 and Aaron White had 14. But it was point guard Mike Gesell, who made the plays to seal the Hawkeyes win down the stretch.
Gesell finished with 13 points and went 4-for-6 from 3-point range, leading a 7-for-19 effort from long range for the Hawkeyes. Penn State, meanwhile, went 3-for-16 from beyond the arc and hit two 3s in the final two minutes when they game was already decided.
“We have to make 3s,” Chambers said. “There’s no secret about that. We need to make at least seven 3s, and I’m not even gonna count the two at the end. We were 1-for-14 when it really counted. I’m just surprised at how we’re shooting the ball at home.”
McCaffery planned to face a Penn State team with 3-point shooters at every position.
The Iowa coach expected to see Graham Woodward and John Johnson knock down 3s as they did when they combined for five against Indiana. He noted that center Donovon Jack and power forward Brandon Taylor can both hit from outside, making the Lions tough to defend.
But Woodward attempted just one shot all day. Johnson went 1-for-3 from long range, but his lone 3 came with 1:44 remaining, cutting Iowa’s lead to 73-63. Jack was 2-for-7 from the field and 0-for-1 from 3 — making him 1-for-19 from beyond the arc in the last seven games.
And Taylor was 2-for-9 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point range. McCaffery was impressed by his development when watching film and surprised to see him struggle.
“He just couldn’t make one today,” McCaffery said.
Taylor, who scored five points during the decisive comeback against Indiana, had a chance to keep Penn State’s comeback against Iowa alive on Saturday.
In less than three minutes, the Lions cut Iowa’s 58-48 lead to 60-55 when Gesell fumbled the ball away at half court and Johnson converted a layup on the other end. Marble hit a pair of free throws to push the Hawkeyes’ lead back to seven points with 3:50 remaining.
On the ensuing Penn State possession, Taylor was left all alone in the right corner. Taylor took the pass from D.J. Newbill and let it fly from 3. But the shot missed long.
And Gesell buried a dagger from the right corner on the other end to push Iowa’s lead back to 10 at 65-55.
Penn State’s comeback — and the game — was over.
“It changes everything,” McCaffery said of Iowa’s edge from beyond the arc. “It just changes the whole complexion of the game. There’s no question about it.”
Especially against a Penn State team that relies heavily on 3-pointers.
“Here’s the problem: If we’re not making 3s, we’re very easy to guard,” Chambers said. “And we only had one scorer today, and we’ve been talking about three scorers. We only had one. I’m not counting the last two minutes. I’m not counting any of those points.”
Newbill was the Lions’ lone consistent scorer, finishing with 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting. He went 0-for-3 from long range. Johnson and Tim Frazier each finished with 11 points, but each also hit a 3 in the final two minutes. Ross Travis scored 10 points, including eight points in the first half.
Chambers expressed concern over Penn State’s shooting woes. Because despite the late comeback, the Lions never had a chance once they went cold from the perimeter.
“If you can’t make outside jump shots, it’s very difficult to win in the Big Ten,” Chambers said. “It’s that simple. It’s not science. It’s very simple.”