When looking at Penn State, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder sees a lot of the marks of a great team.
The Nittany Lions have talented scorers in speedy guards Teniya Page and Lindsey Spann.
They have size in the likes of Peyton Whitted and Candice Agee, and experienced players like Brianna Banks.
“I’m telling you they are still a great team,” Bluder said. “They have talent, they have height, they have speed.
What Penn State doesn’t have of late is the wins.
After claiming three straight Big Ten titles from 2012-14, Penn State has struggled over the past two seasons.
The Nittany Lions won just six games a season ago and enter Wednesday’s contest with Iowa (13-5, 3-3 Big Ten) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena mired in a five-game losing skid.
Bluder isn’t fooled by Penn State’s 6-11 record this season, or its 1-5 mark in the Big Ten.
“Don’t be deceived by their record,” Bluder said. “They won their first game against Northwestern and then they have dropped five in a row but this is a team that is very good.”
Sparkling record or not, Penn State has the full attention of an Iowa team coming off a disappointing 80-73 loss at Michigan State.
After letting a halftime lead slip away for the second time in three conference losses, Iowa won’t be taking any opponent lightly regardless of its record.
“They are a lot better team than their record maybe shows and you can’t underestimate any team in the Big Ten,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “We know that and we are definitely not going to underestimate Penn State.”
Penn State dropped a pair of home games last week by a combined nine points, falling to Nebraska 83-78 and Michigan 91-87.
Page had a career-high 31 points in the loss to Michigan on Sunday and leads Penn State in scoring at 15.6 points per game.
The 5-foot-7 freshman is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range this season and leads the Nittany Lions in assists and steals.
“Teniya Page is playing very well for them,” Bluder said. “She is shooting the 3-ball well but she can beat you off the bounce so she is a tough player to defend.”
Page has had help this season.
Banks and Spann average 13.9 points and 12.6 points per game, respectively.
The 6-foot-3 Whitted and the 6-foot-6 Agee combine for 16.3 points, 13.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
“They have really developed a little more of their outside shooting so you can’t really sag off as much,” Disterhoft said. “So we are going to have to be ready and we are going to have to play a good game to beat them.”
Iowa will need to put four strong quarters together in order to get back on the winning track, something it has failed to do in two of its three Big Ten losses.
The Hawkeyes were outscored 57-37 in the second half of Saturday’s loss to Michigan State.
“It’s the mental game, basketball is 90 percent mental and if you go in with the attitude that you are afraid to lose that lead then that may happen,” Disterhoft said. “We have to just go into the second half confident like we do in the first half and good things will happen.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
Who: Penn State (6-11, 1-5) at Iowa (13-5, 3-3)
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
Stat leaders: Iowa – Ally Disterhoft 16.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg; Chase Coley 10 ppg, 5.1 rpg. Penn State –Teniya Page 15.6 ppg, 3.6 apg; Brianna Banks 13.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg.
What to watch:Penn State has been outscored by 27 points in a pair of road Big Ten losses and is 0-6 in true road games this season. Iowa returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where it is 7-1 this season, for the first time since having a 25-game home winning streak snapped with a 76-56 loss to Maryland. Part of that winning streak was a 77-52 win over Penn State in the only meeting between the two teams last season.