And so it was at the Jordan Center Saturday afternoon, where the Hawkeyes used clutch long-range shooting to break open a tight contest and cruise to an 82-70 win.
In Penn State coach Pat Chambers' estimation, the game boiled down to Iowa's ability to make 3-pointers (the Hawkeyes were 7 of 19) and Penn State's inability to match them in that department. The Lions were 3 of 16 from the arc in the game, but made only 1 of 14 before canning a pair of triples in the final 1:44.
If we're not making 3s, we're very easy to guard, said Chambers, whose team fell to 13-13 overall and 4-9 in the Big Ten while playing before a season-best home crowd of 10,428. And we only had one scorer today.
The scorer in question was guard D.J. Newbill, who made 10 of 15 shots on the way to a game-high 22 points. That prompted Iowa coach Fran McCaffery to say, He's playing as well as anyone in our league right now.
But Newbill got little help, at least when it was still a game. Backcourt mate Tim Frazier was 4 of 17 for 11 points, but only broke into doubles with a late triple and a last-second layup. Guard John Johnson also had a late trey to finish with 11.
The Hawkeyes (19-6, 8-4), meanwhile, got production from multiple key players when it mattered. Guard Mike Gesell was 3 of 4 from long range in the second half, and two of the makes were daggers. The first, with 9:17 to go, gave Iowa the largest second-half lead to that point by either team (54-48). The second, with 3:02 showing, boosted the edge into double figures (65-55) for the first time all game.
Overall, the Hawks were 5 of 10 from the arc in the second half. And as the shots began to fall, it opened things up in the paint, as Aaron White shook off a slow opening half to finish with 14 points and Melsahn Basabe powered his way to 16 points. Both of the big men had highlight-reel dunks.
And it all stemmed from the deep shots going in.
That's an elite team if they're making 3s, Chambers said. They become a very difficult team to play if they're hitting their 3s.
When asked about the effective long-range shooting in the second half, McCaffery said, It changes everything. It changes the whole complexion of the game, there's no question about that.
The complexion of the game was also changed by the officials in the second half. After calling a total of 10 fouls in the first 20 minutes -- with neither team getting into the bonus -- there were whistles galore in the final 20. Penn State was in the bonus at 14:00 and had forced nine Iowa hacks with 13:03 left.
Then the Lions were called for four fouls in a 65-second window to close the foul discrepancy from six (three to nine) down to two (seven to nine).
They've got to even out the fouls, Chambers said. You know it's coming. You just hope it's spaced out properly.
There were 31 fouls called in the second half, with a total of 47 free throws attempted and 39 made. Though the Hawkeyes held a commanding edge on points from the stripe (making 31 of 40 to PSU's 15 of 21), a lot of that had to do with the Lions fouling to try to get back into the game toward the end.
The Hawkeyes made 14 of 16 free throws after a Gesell 3-pointer with 3:02 left. The only other score for Iowa in that span? Another Gesell trey, his fourth of the game, with :20 showing.
I'm not blaming the refs at all, Chambers said. They had nothing to do with Gesell making four 3s.
Or with Penn State only making one until the game was out of reach.
We have to make 3s, Chambers said. There is no secret about that.
Penn State starting forwards Brandon Taylor and Donovan Jack shot a combined 4 of 16 from the floor.
Jack has made one of his last 19 3-pointers.
The Lions scored 40 points in the paint against Iowa's very long defenders. But the Hawkeyes did block 10 shots.
Iowa had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and just two in the second.
Penn State got an impressive 24 points from its bench. That included the 11 from Johnson and 10 from forward Ross Travis. It marked the first time in nine games Travis reached double figures in scoring.
The Lions scored 26 field goals but had assists on only nine of them.
There were a total of six fast-break points scored in the game, including none in the first half.
Penn State is at Nebraska Thursday for a 7 p.m. tip.