No. 14 Iowa 74, Penn State 68: Here's what we learned
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Luka Garza has said repeatedly that he returned to play basketball at Iowa for his senior season in order to win games, not score points.
But the two go hand-in-hand. So it was appropriate that, on the day Garza became the Hawkeye team's all-time leading scorer, he also carried the offensive load inside to help earn a difficult 74-68 victory over Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Garza scored 23 points, including the second-half layup that pushed him past Roy Marble's 2,116 career points. No. 14 Iowa (17-6, 11-5 Big Ten Conference dug out a victory despite playing poorly in many aspects of the game. The Hawkeyes hurt themselves with 16 turnovers and missed 10 of 22 free-throw attempts.
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Penn State (7-12, 4-11) was a pesky opponent, at times visibly flustering the Hawkeyes.
But it was a fourth consecutive win for Iowa, ahead of the most challenging week in recent Hawkeye basketball history. The Hawkeyes travel to face Michigan on Thursday and Ohio State next Sunday. Both teams are in contention to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Here's what we learned:
PENN STATE TRIES TO WIN WITH TREYS: The Nittany Lions are not shy about shooting. They launch from just about anywhere on the court, disregarding the shot clock. They had a successful burst of 3-point shooting in each half, building a lead and gaining confidence with each make. Some of them were from very deep. It was reminiscent of the way Ohio State beat Iowa in this arena. But the Nittany Lions do not have the Buckeyes' talent. Eventually, the shots stopped falling. They missed 12 in a row in one stretch. Iowa wasn't able to take full advantage, but did regain the lead behind the inside play of Garza. Penn State finished 11 of 33 from the 3-point arc.
FREDRICK FINDS HIS SHOOTING STROKE: Iowa shooting guard started back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 17-21, and made an immediate impact. Fredrick hadn’t been shooting often even when he has been able to play for the last month while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. But he opened the scoring Sunday with a 3-pointer from the right wing. He had eight points in the first five minutes, prompting a Penn State timeout. He had 13 by halftime, his most in a game since hitting that mark Jan. 17 at Northwestern. Fredrick made Penn State pay for leaving him open. He’s a 50% 3-point shooter, and that is a huge asset that had been missing from the Hawkeye offense. Fredrick finished with 18 points.
WIESKAMP STRUGGLES EARLY: Fredrick’s contribution was vital because his fellow starter on the wing, Joe Wieskamp, was ineffective in the first half. Wieskamp had been on a tear for the past 10 games, and Penn State obviously made an effort to take him out of that rhythm. Wieskamp missed all three shots he attempted, although two of them rimmed in and out. The bigger issue was his four turnovers against that aggressive Nittany Lions defense. Iowa had seven turnovers in all in the first half, resulting in eight Penn State points. Wieskamp wasn’t the only Hawkeye who appeared to get flustered, but he was the most important. Iowa lost a 13-point lead and trailed 41-36 at intermission. In the second half, Wieskamp started taking the ball to the rim. He scored Iowa's first nine points after intermission to keep his team within striking range.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.