Hawkeyes' latest slow start becomes blowout loss at Penn State

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Whatever the reason, the combination of this Iowa basketball team and the Big Ten Conference road has been a combustible mix.

The Hawkeyes aren’t just losing these road games; they’re getting blown out of them.

For the second straight Saturday, the Hawkeyes were throttled on the road after a nice mid-week win at home. Penn State did the honors this time, running away for an 82-58 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State's Josh Reaves (23) jumps in front of Iowa's Tyler Cook, right, during the first half of Saturday's game at the Bryce Jordan Center.

It doesn’t get easier for here for Iowa, which dropped to 12-13 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play. Just six regular-season games remain, but the next three are against ranked opponents — Tuesday vs. No. 4 Michigan State followed by road trips to No. 18 Ohio State and No. 25 Michigan.

While the Hawkeyes were competitive in most road games a year ago — minus trips to Purdue and Northwestern — it’s been a different story this season.

And, as has usually been the case away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, this one was settled early.

The Hawkeyes have been behind at halftime in all six Big Ten road games by a startling average of 13.2 points. Though Iowa did rally to beat Illinois for its lone road win of the 2017-18 season, slow starts have been a constant.

Saturday marked the Hawkeyes’ biggest halftime deficit yet, at 47-28.

Why does this keep happening?

“I’m not sure," said forward Cordell Pemsl, who scored nine points. "Everyone knows what we’re supposed to do. Everyone knows who they’re guarding. What (opponent) tendencies are.

"We go through it so much, everybody knows it. It just seems like every team we do get down, it’s because we’re letting the other team dictate the way the game is played.”

After Tyler Cook’s layup tied the score at 14-14, here were Iowa’s next six possessions: Pemsl missed layup, Pemsl turnover, Cook charging foul (his second), Jordan Bohannon turnover, Isaiah Moss missed layup and Jack Nunge missed jumper.

By the time that offensive funk ended, Penn State had scored nine straight and rolled from there.

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery argues a call during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryce Jordan Center.

While Iowa had a tough time making layups in stretches, Penn State found plenty of them. The Nittany Lions’ 47 first-half points were their most in any half since scoring 48 Dec. 9 against George Washington. That outburst came on the heels of Iowa allowing 48 and 50 points in its previous two road halves, at Nebraska.

Cook led Iowa with 19 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes. Luka Garza added 13 but was held to 3-for-13 shooting.

It was a rough trip for Bohannon, who was so sick Saturday that he barely participated in the team's shootaround. Bohannon scored only 3 points — a 3-pointer 37 seconds into the game that gave Iowa a 3-0 lead. The team's only point guard exited with 12 minutes, 8 seconds remaining, and Fran McCaffery didn't bring him back as the outcome was all but settled.

Penn State Nittany Lions guard Nazeer Bostick (4) drives the ball to the basket during the first half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Bryce Jordan Center.

“We’ve got to give a better effort for him," Garza said of Bohannon. "Unfortunately, we didn’t do that tonight.”

Penn State (16-9, 6-6), which completed a two-game season sweep of Iowa, shot 55 percent and was led by Mike Watkins' 19 points. Iowa shot 38 percent.