No. 17 Iowa clamps down on No. 14 Penn State in second half to earn another home win

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Ryan Kriener spun into the lane Saturday, spun once more and then swished a hook shot to put his Iowa basketball team ahead by 10 points.

He blew a kiss at the crowd — or the Penn State defenders — as he backpedaled downcourt.

It was a rare elegant play in a rough-and-tumble Big Ten Conference game, but it certainly punctuated an emotional 77-68 Hawkeye victory at soldout Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa won for a 13th consecutive time here.

Iowa guard CJ Fredrick (5) drives to the basket against Penn State's Myles Dread (2) and Lamar Stevens (11) as John Harrar (21) defends during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Hawkeyes did so thanks to a punishing defensive effort that limited the Nittany Lions to 37.1% shooting.

The Hawkeyes did so with expert ball-handling (22 assists, 10 turnovers), by continuously getting to loose balls first, by getting timely shots from throughout their eight-player rotation.

Luka Garza, as usual, led the way in the scoring column for Iowa with 25 points. But he needed 28 shot attempts to get them in the face of a swarming Penn State defense. Garza added a game-high 17 rebounds and blocked four shots.

Hawkeye freshman point guard Joe Toussaint had a career-high eight assists in just 16 minutes.

Joe Wieskamp added 13 points.

Penn State won the first matchup 89-86, and the second meeting was just as closely contested in the early going.

No. 17 Iowa (20-9, 11-7 Big Ten Conference) led 35-34 at halftime, thanks to a 13-4 scoring burst to close the opening 20 minutes. And that was despite star center Garza making only 3 of 16 shots.

The Hawkeyes got terrific play early from Toussaint, some gritty minutes from Cordell Pemsl off the bench and benefitted from the return of CJ Fredrick, who scored eight points in the first half. Fredrick had missed the previous three games with a sprained ankle. He finished with 10 points in 32 minutes.

The No. 14 Nittany Lions (21-8, 11-7) got 14 first-half points from Seth Lundy, nine more than he averages per game. He finished with 19.

There were seven lead changes in the first half, and only five turnovers combined for the teams. The referees allowed a lot of physical play under the basket, calling only 10 fouls.

Iowa next hosts Purdue on Tuesday.

That will be Senior Night for Kriener. Brace yourself for another kiss or two.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.