After navigating its way through nonconference play with an 11-2 record, Iowa has found themselves lost in a “maize” in search of a signature win in the Big Ten.
Despite being picked as a dark horse candidate to contend for the conference title, the Hawkeyes have come up short more than once in the Big Ten slate, leading to a 2-5 record and a 10th spot in the standings.
However, wins and losses don’t tell the whole story for the Hawkeyes so far.
Out of Iowa’s five conference defeats, four of them have come against ranked opponents, and all but one game — a 28-point loss to now No. 1-ranked Michigan — has been decided by single digits.
In those four games, Iowa took Indiana down to the wire in a four-point finish and battled in a two-point loss to Michigan State without its leading scorer, Roy Devyn Marble.
Despite winning last year’s meeting against the Hawkeyes at home, Penn State is looking to end a nine-game losing streak in Iowa City on Thursday night, which included a 13-point loss in Patrick Chambers’ first year at the helm.
“We're going to try and work on some of things that Iowa does well. But when we go over to Iowa, it's not even going to be about Iowa or any of their players,” forward Ross Travis said when asked about last year’s loss.
“It's going to be about Penn State basketball and about how we approach the game… When we get to Iowa we'll have the right mindset.”
Even though both teams are at or near the conference cellar, the Hawkeyes are quietly one of the most potent offensive teams in the Big Ten (fourth in scoring), while Penn State is dead last in the same category.
For the Hawkeyes, their approach is to mix things up tempo-wise, but also use crisp ball rotation to get multiple players involved.
Except for its loss to Michigan, Iowa has had double-digit scoring performances from at least three players each Big Ten game, including four players above 10 points in two of its last three contests.
Considering Chambers has Philadelphia connections to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and the experience playing two games last year, the Penn State coach is familiar with how the Hawkeyes like to draw opponents out of their comfort zone.
“[McCaffery] plays a fun style. They're up and down [the court] and they press you. They play man sometimes, some zone and they really keep you off balance,” Chambers said.
On the contrary, Penn State has yet to have a game in the Big Ten where more than two players score in double-digits.
While Marble, a swingman, and big man Aaron White are the only Hawkeyes averaging more than 10 points per game, scoring production from freshman point guard Mike Gesell (18 points against Purdue on Sunday) and sixth man Melsahn Basabe helps keep opposing teams out of sorts defensively.
With multiple scoring options to take into consideration, Chambers said on Monday that he’s unsure of how he’ll attack the Hawkeyes defensively.
“I haven't decided yet. I'm worried about us right now. I know you're all tired of hearing me say it, but it's the truth… Plus I don't want to reveal my cards,” Chambers said with a laugh.