UNIVERSITY PARK — The stage was set for Penn State to pick up its first win in conference play.
The crowd was raucous; The Nittany Lions’ play — inspired. Nearly every statistical category that plagued the team all season had been conquered.
Then Roy Devy Marble stepped to the line and hit two huge frees that silenced the crowd and gave his team a 72-68 lead.
“I have great confidence in him … We wanted him to get fouled in that situation,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “That (was a) big difference … two possession game.”
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If you weren’t at the game, you missed Penn State’s best performance by far in Big Ten play, as the Nittany Lions still fell 74-72 on Valentine’s Day at the Bryce Jordan Center.
D.J. Newbill led all scorers with 26 points and eight rebounds. Jermaine Marshall scored 14 points and had a career-high 10 assists.
Newbill hit a career-best three 3-pointers.
“I knew he had it in him he just didn’t trust his jumper,” head coach Patrick Chambers said of Newbill. “He was a great leader tonight … it wasn’t just about the points it was about the hustle plays.”
Sasa Borovnjak scored 14 points to become the first Nittany Lion to score in double figures besides Newbill and Marshall.
Penn State (8-16, 0-12 Big Ten) shot 44 percent from the field and 47 percent from the 3-point line. They also had just six turnovers to 13 for the Hawkeyes.
Marble led the Hawkeyes (16-9, 5-7 Big Ten) with 22 points. Mike Gesell finished with 13 points but scored just three points in the second half. Melsahn Basabe scored 11 points.
Before Marble hit both free throws with about 20 seconds remaining, the game was tight and the crowd was clamoring for a victory. Marshall stepped to the foul line with 1:13 left and his team down just 70-68. After he missed the first the crowd gasped.
“Students were great,”Chambers said. “It’s the loudest I’ve heard all season; it can be done …”
Then the estimated 7,636 in attendance went stone-cold silent for the second, quiet enough to hear Steve Jones say “it’s up and it’s good.”
Ahead 70-68 with just less than a minute remaining, Iowa decided to hold the ball up top with Marble being guarded by Ross Travis (four points, four rebounds). Travis relieved Marble of the ball and after the grift, a three in the corner by Newbill went begging.
Later, Basabe went 1 of 2 from the foul line with four seconds remaining and his team up 73-70, leading to a long outlet pass to Marshall, who was fouled before he could hoist a tying three.
With one second remaining, Marshall made the first and tried to miss the second but accidentally drained a ghastly-looking attempt clearly designed to be a miss.
“Coach told me to make the first one and tried to push the second one long but it went in,” Marshall said after the game.
Marble got fouled on the ensuing possession, made the first and missed the second intentionally forcing Brandon Taylor to try a desperation three that went begging.
The first half was a game of runs as Iowa started the game with a 12-2 spurt only to be caught by a 16-0 Penn State push.
The Hawkeyes quickly countered the Nittany Lions best offensive stretch in months with an 11-0 run that earned them a modest 28-23 lead with 6:17 remaining.
Newbill was a jack-of-all trades in the first half, starting the game guarding Iowa’s Aaron White — who had 27 points in the last meeting — then switching over to Mike Gesell when the freshman got hot early. Oh and he also found time to score 16 points, nab three rebounds and shoot 7-of-9 from the field in the first half.
He also jumped started the crowd with a one-handed dunk courtesy of a Jermaine Marshall lob on Penn State’s first offensive possession.
“Our time is coming,” Chambers said. “The ball will bounce our way …”