The Hawkeye coach was thankful for the atmosphere in a 68-60 win over Illinois.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Goal No. 1 for Iowa's basketball players Saturday: Keep their eyes on Penn State scoring star D.J. Newbill.
Goal No. 1 for the Nittany Lions: Don't keep their eyes on Newbill.
The senior guard is the Big Ten's leading scorer at 20.5 points a game for a team that is 3-12 in Big Ten play heading into Saturday's 5 p.m. game with Iowa at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Newbill has scored 20 points or more in 14 games this season. His only game not in double digits was the Nittany Lions' last outing a week ago at Northwestern. The Wildcats shut down Newbill's driving lanes, limited him to six shots and three points.
"I know he'll be looking for his after the (Northwestern) game, and looking to have a performance to remember," said Iowa's Aaron White, fresh off a career-high 29 points in Wednesday's victory over Illinois.
Newbill is the only Penn State player averaging double figures offensively this season. He's scored in double figures 28 times. The rest of the team has done it 49 times, with no one reaching the 20-point mark. Newbill's teammates have often become spectators.
"The other guys need to step up," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. "We start to stare at our best player and say, 'OK, get us 25.' "
It will be interesting to see what plan Iowa coach Fran McCaffery comes up with to slow down a player who Chambers considers underrated despite his flair for scoring.
"Because we're not winning in the Big Ten, he's not really getting the credit he certainly deserves," Chambers said. "He's been trapped, he's been blitzed … they've played zone, they've box-and-oned him, face-guarded him. He's seen everything you could imagine."
The senior did drill two big 3s in the second half.
Newbill, a second-team all-Big Ten selection last season, will have Iowa's undivided attention.
"He's definitely a guy we'll be keeping an eye on," Hawkeye point guard Mike Gesell said.
White, who attended both the LeBron James and Kevin Durant camps last summer with Newbill, calls Penn State "a dangerous team. They'll beat you if you don't respect them, if you don't play your best."
Playing Big Ten games on the road has been a Hawkeye strength of late. Iowa is 8-8 in league play on the road in conference games over the past two seasons.
Now 9-6 in Big Ten play overall, a victory Saturday would give McCaffery his first winning league record in five seasons at Iowa. A victory against Penn State would also assure the Hawkeyes, 4-3 in conference games away from home, their first winning record on the Big Ten road since the 1986-87 team was 7-2.
"We're an experienced team," said McCaffery, who has three seniors and four juniors in his nine-man rotation. "We should be able to go on the road and execute and follow the game plan, and not get too rattled by the surroundings."
A victory would likely clinch a second straight NCAA Tournament berth for McCaffery's team, too. So Iowa has a lot riding on Saturday's game. And the quickest way to reach the winner's circle will be by keeping 10 eyes on Newbill.