Balanced Hawkeyes treat sold-out Iowa basketball crowd to a victory against Penn State

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — With its first sold-out home crowd of the men's basketball season, the only thing that mattered Saturday afternoon for Iowa was walking out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a win — and a pep-band rendition of the "Victory Polka." 

Done and done.

(In heaven there is no beer.)

The Hawkeyes didn't exactly light up the scoreboard but used a team-wide effort to outlast Penn State, 68-51, before 15,056 fans.

Iowa improved to 14-5 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten Conference play; Penn State dropped to 8-8 and 3-5.

“We have to feed off our home crowd, which we did tonight," Iowa senior guard Jordan Bohannon said. "It’s important for us to stack home wins. That’s what essentially gets people ahead in the conference.”

After scoring just five points in Iowa's previous two games, Kris Murray provided a spark the Hawkeyes needed off the bench. The sophomore (and lesser-known of Iowa's identical-twin Murrays) scored 10 second-half points and hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers that helped extend Iowa's lead in what was a Big Ten slog at times. He finished with 13 points and four rebounds at Carver-Hawkeye, where he blew up for 29 points in his previous game on Jan. 13 against Indiana.

Murray's first second-half 3 came with 10:59 to go after Penn State had cut Iowa's lead to 44-41. He buried another with 6:46 left, pushing the Hawkeye advantage to 56-47.

Iowa's Connor McCaffery and Keegan Murray defense Penn State's Jaheam Cornwall in the first half of Saturday's sold-out game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

From there, the Hawkeyes made sure to finish the job and send their fans home happy.

Keegan Murray ultimately got his numbers: 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Patrick McCaffery and Bohannon added 11 points apiece.

Despite being outrebounded handily in the first half, Iowa went to the locker room with a 30-25 lead thanks to a defense that forced 13 Penn State turnovers.

Penn State had a 22-6 edge on the glass at one point and a 25-23 first-half lead on the scoreboard. But back-to-back 3-pointers from Bohannon and Kris Murray in the last 96 seconds before halftime helped give the sold-out crowd a much-needed burst of energy after Iowa had registered just nine points in nearly 13 minutes of game clock — a slogging clip that resembled the Hawkeyes’ 48-46 loss at Rutgers three nights earlier. 

Although he logged all 20 possible minutes in the first half, Keegan Murray scored only five points and didn’t attempt a shot in the final nine minutes. The nation’s second-leading scorer was also held to one first-half rebound.

Murray came to life in the second half, as did Iowa's rebounding. The Hawkeyes wound up pulling down 31 of the game's final 43 rebounds to finish with a 37-34 edge on the glass. Give Iowa's defense plenty of credit, too. It forced Penn State into 17 turnovers and held the Nittany Lions to 33.3% shooting (17-for-51).

Iowa's next game comes at 8 p.m. Thursday against fourth-ranked Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.