The Iowa men's basketball team wasted a double-digit, second-half lead and an incredible shooting night from 3-point range in losing a 65-64 heartbreaker to Penn State on Wednesday. The setback in State College represented the Hawkeyes' fifth defeat in their last six games.
Freshman Jake Kelly paced the visitors with 17 points (7 of 9 from the floor) and four assists. Tony Freeman added 14 points to go with five rebounds and five assists for the Hawkeyes (12-17 overall, 5-11 Big Ten).
"It's really disappointing," Kelly said on the radio postgame. "We're fighting hard. We have a pretty short rotation and a lot of guys are playing through a lot of pains and tiredness. But it's really hard to take this loss when we're definitely a better team than them."
Jamelle Cornley scored a game-high 22 (18 in the second half) and pulled down a contest-best seven rebounds for Penn State (13-14, 5-10).
"He was really unstoppable," Kelly said. "There was nothing that Seth (Gorney) or anybody could do. He's a big load and he's hard to stop."
Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter felt like adjustments could have been made in defending Cornley.
"One of the problems is that, as a player, if a guy gets in a groove on you then you have to make him do something else," Lickliter said during his postgame radio interview. "Make him catch it further out. You might even have to make a little more contact. We struggle to adjust. We want it to happen because we're there. It just isn't that way."
Iowa shot 23 of 40 (57.5 percent) from the floor, including a blistering 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from behind the arc. The 12 treys were a season-high.
Turnovers hurt the Hawkeyes, who gave it away 17 times compared to 10 for Penn State. Rebounds were even at 21, but the Nittany Lions doubled up the visitors, 10-5, on the offensive glass.
"We had 17 turnovers," Lickliter said. "We had one where we threw it up the floor over a guy's head right out of bounds. We had a guy (Jeff Peterson) have three charges. The same guy has three charges. Now, eventually you have to figure out that you have to jump stop and not run into…I mean, you just have to make adjustments in games. We struggle with just being in tune and really being engaged.
"And you know, I need to help them; no question about that."
Penn State shot 17 free throws to the Hawkeyes' seven, but Lickliter wasn't using that as an excuse.
"I've told this team many times that you can't expect somebody to give you anything," he said. "You have to expect to be fouled. You have to expect to be fouled and still pass the ball and shoot the ball and hang onto it. That's not the way that we approach it all the time. We think that we should get calls.
"These officials don't call it against you on purpose. Sometimes you're going to get knocked around a little bit and that's just part of it. You've got to move on and we struggle to move on."
Iowa appeared to be in good shape when it started the second half on a 15-2 run to grab a 45-33 lead with 16:24 remaining in the game. The home team cut its deficit to five two minutes later, but the Hawkeyes responded to take a nine-point advantage with just under 10 minutes left on the clock.
A pair of free throws by Dan Bohall with 2:40 remaining in the contest moved Iowa ahead by seven, but things went downhill from there as the Hawkeyes did not score the rest of the way.
The Hawkeyes missed three shots and turned it over three times in their final six possessions. Justin Johnson was stripped attempting to get off a game-winning three in the closing seconds.
Iowa next plays on Saturday against Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (5 p.m., Big Ten Network).