By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Down 12 with 10 minutes left to play, Penn State (8-16, 0-12 Big Ten) fought to within two points before falling to Iowa (16-9, 5-7 Big Ten), 74-72. Despite the result, the Nittany Lions showed strength and resilience as they battled through adversity until the final buzzer sounded.
"That's Penn State basketball," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "That's what you're going to see until the end of this year and that's what you're going to see as long as I'm the coach. We're going to play with that type of energy, that type of intensity every night out."
In a game that would provide valuable experience to a young team, Penn State fell behind 17-7 early as Iowa established a physical presence in the paint, outrebounding the Nittany Lions 24-11 in the first half. Nevertheless, the home team rallied as it would the entire game, going on a 16-0 run to take the lead midway through the period.
Sophomore guard D.J. Newbill ignited the rally with a 3-pointer and was the leader on offense, shooting 7-for-9 with 16 points in the first half. He finished with 26 points on the night, one point from tying his career best. Chambers praised the sophomore's leadership throughout the contest.
"He was a great leader tonight," said Chambers. "It was about the hustle plays and not giving in when things looked bad when we got down by double digits. He just kept persevering and kept pushing that team and that's how you get back in the game."
The Hawkeyes responded with a run of their own and took a four-point lead heading into the locker room when sophomore forward Aaron White drained a three as time expired, but Penn State's confidence never wavered.
After senior forward Sasa Borovnjak opened the second half with a two-point jump shot to close the gap, Newbill drilled a three off of a turnover to give the Nittany Lions the lead. Borovnjak put up 14 points, one shy of his personal best, and Newbill finished with a career high three 3-pointers.
The back and fourth duel continued until midway through the second half when Iowa began to pull away. The Hawkeyes went up by 12 points with under 11 minutes to play and Penn State was suffering a setback once again.
"That's a very good team," said Chambers on Iowa. "They're probably one of the better teams that are playing their best basketball right now and they've been playing great on the road."
The intensity never changed. As they had the entire game, the Nittany Lions responded with a winning mentality. The players put up points in the paint, they scored from beyond the arc, they grinded, and they climbed to within two points with just over four minutes remaining.
"I think we did a good job bringing it from the start to the finish," said Newbill. "We had a little scoring slump in the second half, but we still kept our intensity on defense and we still kept fighting. I think we competed for 40 minutes."
The Hawkeyes promptly pulled away by six with a basket and a pair of free throws from their top scorer, junior guard Roy Devyn Marble, who posted 22 points in the victory.
Again, Penn State battled and the crowd roared its support, as it had all game long.
"The students were great and the fans were great," said Chambers. "That's the loudest I've ever heard that place, so it can be done. We can have a home court advantage. It's unfortunate we didn't come out with the win, but the atmosphere was definitely amazing. It was special to see."
Thirty-five seconds remained and the Nittany Lions were down by two when Newbill missed a three to take the lead. A foul put Iowa back on the line for a one-and-one and when the first shot was missed, Penn State rebounded and drove with a second chance to tie the game, but the Hawkeyes wouldn't be denied as junior forward Melsahn Basabe blocked an attempted game-tying layup by junior guard Jermaine Marshall.
Despite being down by four with 20 seconds left, the Nittany Lions continued to fight for the full 40 minutes until clock struck zero and the game ended with the 74-72 defeat.
It was a tough loss, but coach Chambers and his players took a positive message from the experience. The team demonstrated what it truly means to play at Penn State and be apart of the Nittany Lion family by confronting adversity and simply never giving up.
"No matter what the wins and losses, just keep competing," said Newbill. "I think those are the positives from this game."
"You have to stay positive," said Chambers. "We have to get back to work tomorrow. We play a great team on Sunday and that's going to be our approach."
Nittany Lions Battle in Tight Loss to Iowa
By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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