Shep Garner scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half and Donovan Jack came off the bench to score 19 points as Penn State shocked No. 4 Iowa State in Happy Valley on Wednesday night, 79-75.
The Nittany Lions also picked off then-No. 22 Indiana at home last week. Combined, those two wins make up exactly half of Penn State’s win total in the Big Ten and sandwiched a 16-point loss to Nebraska. A week before Penn State beat Indiana, they lost at Iowa.
By 24 points.
So this isn’t exactly a good loss for the Hawkeyes, and while it’s not the kind of loss that will be a killer for the NCAA tournament profile, it is another worrisome sign about the trajectory of this Iowa team. Prior to this loss at Penn State, Iowa struggled at home to beat a Minnesota team that has yet to win a Big Ten game this season. Before that, the Hawkeyes lost on the road to Indiana.
Generally speaking, this is not the kind of thing that should worry a team or a fan base, but you’ll forgive the Hawkeye faithful if these last seven days have them concerned. They’ve heard this story before. This is what Iowa does. They string together just enough good performances to make you believe that this will be the year and then find a way to give it all back.
(I know far too well what they’re going through. Google ‘Spursy’.)
The loss at Iowa State is precisely what I’m talking about. The Hawkeyes got 30 first half points but Jarrod Uthoff but watch a 20-point second half lead vanish as the Cyclones beat their in-state rival.
And here’s the thing: Iowa’s remaining schedule isn’t quite as easy as we thought it would be a month ago. They get Wisconsin, the hottest team in the league, and Indiana at home while paying a visit to Ohio State and Michigan, who could very well have Caris LeVert back and be playing for their at-large bid in that game.
Iowa currently sits all alone in first place in the Big Ten, but they’re in a three-way tie with Indiana and Maryland in the loss column. They’re still looking at a two-seed in the NCAA tournament as of today and have an all-american in Uthoff leading the charge.
But I promise you: Iowa fans are starting to get just a little bit nervous, and I can’t blame them.