PHILADELPHIA — Penn State made the plays down the stretch Saturday, foiling Iowa's effort to play spoiler and pulling out an 89-86 win at the historic and muggy Palestra.
The Hawkeyes got 34 points and 12 rebounds from Luka Garza. They got 23 points and 10 rebounds from Joe Wieskamp. They got 18 points from freshman point guard Joe Toussaint.
But they missed seven crucial free throws. They committed 15 turnovers.
And they watched the Nittany Lions celebrate with a partisan crowd on a "neutral" court.
It was a home game for No. 21 Penn State (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten Conference), and it sure felt like it. The Nittany Lions struggle to create any atmosphere in games on their campus. That wasn’t a problem Saturday.
The 93-year-old Palestra had a capacity crowd of 8,725 on hand, 90% of them in Penn State white and ready to cheer on a team that includes six players from Philadelphia.
No. 25 Iowa (10-4, 1-1) did an admirable job of managing those emotions. Even when the Nittany Lions went on a run to take a 37-29 lead with 3:02 left in the first half, the Hawkeyes calmly erased it. Garza and Wieskamp combined to score the next nine points.
Penn State led 39-38 at halftime. Garza had 15 points and seven rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. Wieskamp had 10 points. Senior Ryan Kriener contributed eight important points and some poise off the bench.
There were 12 lead changes and six ties in the first half.
The second half brought more of the same. Iowa lost guard CJ Fredrick to an apparent ankle injury.
But Garza kept attacking. So did Wieskamp and Toussaint. No other Hawkeye scored in the second half.
It was almost enough.
But the Nittany Lions made their final five shots to pull out a heated win.
Iowa next plays at Nebraska on Tuesday.
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.