IOWA CITY, Iowa - In a season with more downs than ups, Cyrus Tate and his Iowa teammates completed the regular season on a high note.
Tate spent most of the Big Ten campaign watching his squad lose close game after close game as he nursed a high-ankle sprain. Saturday, the captain and an under-the-weather Jake Kelly proved to be too much for Penn State in a 75-67, double-overtime victory in front of an announced crowd of 14,094 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes (15-16 overall, 5-13 Big Ten) moved to 3-0 in OT games in 2008-09. It was their first multiple overtime game since playing three extra sessions against Minnesota in ‘06. It was the first double overtime game since ‘04 at Indiana.
"A great way to go out," Tate said. "I realized it was my last game here and I just wanted to give it everything I've got. It's a great feeling."
Tate and reserve J.R. Angle were honored before the game in Senior Day ceremonies.
"I couldn't ask for anything more these last three years from the fans," Tate said. "They inspired me and helped me play the way I play. I just want to thank them the most."
Tate played the most minutes (42) he had since sustaining his injury against Minnesota on Jan. 8. His 15 points and 10 rebounds also represented his best totals since 22 and 11 against Indiana on Jan. 3. He missed nine games and most of two others with the sprain.
"It was a great experience," Tate said. "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life."
Kelly, who has had a broken finger, stitches and logged mega minutes this month, missed practice time this week with flu symptoms. He left the floor once in the second half to vomit, but ended up with 22 points, 11 assists and four rebounds in 47 minutes.
The flu hit Kelly on Friday morning and he woke up with a 101 degree temperature on Saturday morning. He skipped the team meal and didn't decide to play until going through pre-game warm-ups.
"He had the option. He did not have to play," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. "But he is highly competitive and chose to play."
Kelly also banked in a pair of 3-pointers in overtime.
"I had no idea where those were going," the sophomore said. "I had no legs, nothing. So, I was blessed to hit those. That's for sure."
Jarryd Cole, who suffered a severe knee injury last season, chipped in with Iowa's third double-double of the day. The sophomore from Kansas City scored 14 and grabbed 11 boards in a campaign-best 35 minutes.
It was the first time this season that Cole and Tate played extended minutes together. Lickliter decided to go with the alignment to take advantage of Penn State switching on ball screens. When the visitors did it, Iowa rolled one of the big men to the basket.
"The type of players we are we each take pressure off of each other," Cole said. "When one of us attracts so much attention, the other is able to produce. That's a great way to play. We showed that tonight. So, maybe we'll do it more often."
Three Hawkeyes recorded double-doubles for the first time since Jess Settles, Jim Bartels and Russ Millard turned the trick on Dec. 29, 1993 against Cal-Irvine. Iowa out-rebounded the visitors 43-32 and also turned it over only 11 times on the afternoon.
Talor Battle paced Penn State (21-10, 10-8) with 26 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the second OT. Cole and Tate were able to hold Lions big man Jamelle Cornley to 10 points (4 of 12 from the floor) and one rebound.
The game was tied 39-39 with 9 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in regulation. Iowa then put together a 12-3 run for a nine-point lead with 2:41 on the clock. The Nittany Lions responded with a 14-5 run to end the second half and send it to overtime.
The Hawkeyes grabbed a 64-61 lead in the first extra session, but a Cornley trey resulted in a second OT. Battle's three put PSU up three to start the second OT, but Devan Bawinkle's tripled tied it right away and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Penn State failed to score again while Kelly banked his second three and Cole and Matt Gatens sealed it by each hitting a pair of free throws.
"It's a good thing we got our turn this time," Cole said about the bounces finally going the way of the Hawkeyes. "We've played hard. We've practiced hard. We prepared hard. It finally paid off in that win.
"It feels good to reap those benefits. We're just soaking in it right now."
Kelly started at point guard for the sixth game in a row in place of injured Jeff Peterson (hamstring). Even though he was unsure if he would play on Saturday, his father reminded him on an important fact.
"I usually do play pretty good sick," Kelly said. "My dad came to the game today and said I have to play. I always play my best game when I'm sick. I really didn't want to, but I just gutted it out."
It seemed to represent the effort the Hawkeyes have forged ahead with all season. Iowa finally got a break after losing nine league games by eight or fewer points.
"It was just an incredible, gutsy performance for a group," Lickliter said. "I'd be hard pressed to think of a game when they weren't competing. It's been a tough time. We've had some setbacks and these guys haven't hung their heads or felt sorry for themselves, they've just seized the next opportunity.
"What a great lesson. I hope that people look at them and respect and appreciate the way that they've approached it. It's not the year we wanted it to be as far as wins, but they're a group that is truly a pleasure to work with and to be around. They pull for each other and there's a lot to be said for their approach."