Lions get to have fun in win No. 16

By Paddy Cotter

For the Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK — In rare fashion, Penn State basketball had a comfortable win. But the players and the coaches were far from relaxed against Iowa on Saturday night in the Bryce Jordan center

“They’re probably comfortable for you,” Chambers said when asked what it was like to cruise to an 82-58 win. “They’re not comfortable for me.”

The victory, matched their win total (16) from last season. Athletic Director Sandy Barbour noted that she needed to see progress from Chambers’ team this season. The win cooled off the coach’s hot seat.

“I definitely was worried about coach when things were going bad,” Tony Carr, who scored 16 points, said. “We want what’s best for this program and for this team and that’s with coach being the head of everything.”

The Lions’ dominance started early against the Hawkeyes.

Iowa fell into an early drought which featured six missed six shot attempts as the Lions defense forced difficult attempts.

At the midpoint of the first half, the Lions were shooting almost 70 percent from the field and had built a nine-point lead.

Most of the offensive production came from the paint. By halftime, the Lions had outscored the Hawkeyes 24-16 in the paint.

The Hawkeyes are tall, with four of their five starter over 6-foot-5. But Mike Watkins had little trouble getting handling them.

“They’re a team that challenges you well at the rim,” coach Fran McCaffery said of the Lions.

Mike Watkins, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, matched the Hawkeyes’ height with sound play.

Even though the paint was Lions stomping ground for most of the first half, the team padded it’s lead with consistency from the perimeter.

Carr and Shep Garner both nailed a pair of 3-pointers to add to their lead and loosen the interior.

Iowa was 1 for 10 from the perimeter. Jordan Bohannon, who is the Hawkeyes’ best shooter, was sick heading into the matchup. The result was a lackluster outing against a revved-up Lions defense.

“He ran out of gas pretty quickly,” McCaffrey said.

Even though the Lions didn’t score in the final two minutes of the half, their 19-point advantage heading into the halftime break was sufficient. The Lions made 20 of their 34 shot attempts and won the rebound battle heading into the break.

In an attempt to slow down Penn State’s offense, McCaffery implemented a press defense. The aggressive scheme initially had an effect on the Lions, sending the home team into a three-minute scoring drought.

The Hawkeyes offense scored eight unanswered points to chip into the Lions’ dominant lead. Tyler Cook, who recorded a team-high 19 points, led the Hawkeyes charge.

But Carr and Watkins began to pick apart the defense again and brought their lead up to 20 with 10 minutes left.

Four highlight reel dunks in the final minutes from Stevens, Reaves and Watkins sent the crowd and bench into a frenzy. It was the perfect punctuation to a much-needed win.

“You got to let them have fun,” Chambers said. “They’ve got to enjoy it.”

The Lions have let go of a lot of second half-leads this season. Their recent loss to Michigan State saw the Lions relinquish a 12-point lead.

Even though Iowa is a below-average Big Ten opponent, holding on to the lead was an important step that Penn State needed to prove it can take.

IOWA (12-13): Garza 3-13 7-9 13, Baer 1-4 0-0 2, Cook 8-12 3-6 19, Moss 1-6 2-2 4, Bohannon 1-3 0-0 3, Pemsl 3-6 3-5 9, Wagner 0-0 0-0 0, Nunge 2-7 0-0 4, Uhl 0-0 0-0 0, Dailey 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 21-55 15-22 58.

PENN STATE (16-9): Watkins 9-10 1-2 19, Stevens 8-18 1-2 17, Garner 3-8 0-0 9, Carr 6-13 2-2 16, Reaves 4-5 3-4 11, Harrar 1-1 0-0 2, Moore 1-1 0-0 2, Bostick 2-5 0-0 4, Wheeler 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 35-64 7-10 82.

Halftime–Penn St. 47-28. 3-Point Goals–Iowa 1-10 (Bohannon 1-3, Moss 0-1, Dailey 0-1, Garza 0-2, Baer 0-3), Penn St. 5-15 (Garner 3-7, Carr 2-4, Bostick 0-1, Stevens 0-3). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Iowa 28 (Garza, Baer, Cook 6), Penn St. 33 (Watkins 10). Assists–Iowa 7 (Bohannon 3), Penn St. 13 (Reaves 5). Total Fouls–Iowa 14, Penn St. 19.