Lions Lay an Egg in Finale

After winning three of four, Penn State cracks big time on the road against Iowa. The loss snuffs out the momentum the Lions had built heading into Big Tens.

If a basketball team is going to lay an egg, it might as well do so in the middle of Iowa farm country. And it might as well do so in the final game of the regular season, before the do-or-die specter of the postseason hits.

So in that way, Penn State's 65-38 debacle at Iowa Wednesday night was not nearly as disastrous as the final score indicated. Though the Nittany Lions closed the Big Ten campaign the same way they began it — with a road whimper — a chance for redemption remains when the league tournament begins a week from now.

“Right now I don't care who we play,” Lion coach Ed DeChellis said on his postgame radio show. “I'm just looking forward to getting [his players] back in the gym and trying to straighten them out.”

Penn State (14-13, 6-10) won three of four prior to Wednesday's action. But any hope of carrying momentum into Big Tens was snuffed out early. Up 14-12 midway through the second half, the Hawkeyes went on a 15-0 run to blow it open.

The Lions stopped the bleeding until the break, when they were down 30-17. But they didn't score again until Ben Luber made a 3-pointer with 13:18 left in the game, by which time they were behind 41-20. And that was pretty much that. PSU missed 30 of its first 35 shots in the game.

“We get open shots and no on can find the basket,” DeChellis said.

Indeed, Penn State could not find the basket all night, going on one long scoring drought after another. And much of that had to do with Iowa's imposing front line making life difficult for the Lions' 6-foot-5 post players. Freshman power forward Jamelle Cornley was 0-8 from the floor and had at least five shots blocked. As a team, Iowa finished with eight blocks.

State's Geary Claxton was 2 of 11 before hitting a 3-pointer in garbage time. PSU's primary three-man guard rotation made a combined 4 of 17 by the time the final media timeout rolled around. Only senior Travis Parker, the lone Lion in doubles with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, got anything going. Take away Parker, and Penn State shot 9 of 44 from the floor.

It led to Penn State's lowest scoring output since falling 80-37 at Illinois in 2004.

Iowa, meanwhile, got 16 points out of guard Mike Henderson to lead a balanced attack. The Hawkeyes shot 54 percent from the floor in improving to 21-8 and 10-5, and in the process kept hope alive for a share of the Big Ten crown.

GAME NOTES

• While the rest of the Big Ten plays this weekend, Penn State has a bye. The Lions will take on the winner of Saturday's Minnesota-Northwestern game in the 8-9 matchup of next week's league tournament in Indianapolis. That game tips at noon and will be carried live by ESPN2. “I don't have a preference,” DeChellis said. “I don't care who we play.”

• Penn State opened Big Ten play with a 104-69 loss at Ohio State.

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