Penn State topped the 70-point mark for just the second time in the Big Ten season Thursday and came as close as it has to winning a conference game. But some troubles at the free-throw line kept the Nittany Lions from finishing the last of several comebacks in a 74-72 loss to Iowa in the Bryce Jordan Center. Jermaine Marshall made a free throw he was trying to intentionally miss in the final seconds with his team down two, sealing Penn State's 12th straight loss, all in Big Ten play.
Marshall had a double-double Thursday but also had some troubles at the free-throw line.
Top performers: D.J. Newbill had 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting, adding eight rebounds and just one turnover in 38 minutes. Marshall and Sasa Borovnjak had 14 points apiece for the Nittany Lions, with Marshall adding a career-high 10 assists.
Roy Devyn Marble led the Hawkeyes (16-9, 5-7) with 22 points, 14 coming in the second half, and Mike Gesell added 13.
What went right: An energized Penn State team fed off a student-heavy crowd and played well during a first-half stretch that resulted in a 16-0 run. Newbill connected on three 3-pointers and a number of mid-range jumpers as well, and the Nittany Lions got some key second-half production from Borovnjak, who reached double figures against a Big Ten foe for the first time this season. Penn State got threes from five different players and was 8-of-17 from the arc as a squad, and it battled back from a 12-point deficit with just over 10 minutes left to come within a few free throws of winning.
What went wrong: Once again, too many possessions of bad defense added up. Penn State didn't make enough stops down the stretch to complete a spirited comeback. The Nittany Lions could not build on their big first-half run, allowing Iowa to score nine unanswered points after Penn State's 16-point spurt. Marshall missed free throws when his team needed him to make them and made the one he needed to miss, but once again the Nittany Lions were on the wrong side of a huge deficit (26-15) in free-throw attempts.
Statworthy: The Nittany Lions finished with just six turnovers and had seven steals. … Newbill made just one of his final seven field-goal attempts. … Penn State's 17 assists were a season-high. … Melsahn Basabe had four of Iowa's seven blocked shots. … The Nittany Lions shot better than 39 percent for just the second time in 12 Big Ten games this season.
Quotable: "We've had a number of tough games that we didn't close. We didn't play perfectly down the stretch but we made enough free throws, made enough plays, got enough stops, to beat a team that's going to fight you like no other team." -- Iowa coach Fran McCaffery
"I think 74 points (allowed) for us is too many, especially at home. We need some stops, some rebounds and we need to make some free throws when it counts. And we didn't." -- Penn State coach Patrick Chambers
"It's very frustrating. We understand how hard we work. We feel like we deserve to make those winning plays. We felt like we had the game. We maybe needed a little more time on the clock." -- Penn State guard D.J. Newbill
Summary: Penn State fans walked away with tickets redeemable for free Big Macs for the first time in a month (by virtue of the Lions reaching 70 points) but were left shaking their heads, knowing the Nittany Lions missed a great chance for that elusive first conference victory. The Nittany Lions shot the ball with more confidence than usual against a not-too-stingy Iowa defense and were able to create some offense with their defense, generating 18 points off turnovers. In the end, they made too many mistakes down the stretch of a winnable game (a position they haven't often been in this season), but showed that they have not quit on the season or on Chambers, which was an encouraging sign from a team that has all kinds of reasons to fold.
Up next: The Nittany Lions will visit No. 4 Michigan at noon Sunday.