Valentine's Day at the Jordan Center only brought more heartbreak for Penn State. The Nittany Lions fell to Iowa, 74-72, extending their Big Ten-opening losing streak to a record-tying dozen games.
The loss ruined a spectacular effort by sophomore guard D.J. Newbill, who finished with a game-high 26 points and eight rebounds. Making it all the more painful: Penn State (8-16, 0-12) missed several key scoring opportunities in the final minute of the tight game.
It was very frustrating, Newbill said. We understand how hard we worked. We felt we deserved to make those winning plays. We felt we had the game.
State overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to trail 70-68 when Jermaine Marshall hit one of two free throws with 41 seconds remaining. But the Lions could not capitalize on several golden opportunities from that point.
After PSU's Ross Travis came up with a steal, Newbill missed a wide-open look from the arc that would have given the Lions a lead. Marshall rebounded but gave up a steal to Hawkeye Eric May.
May was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds to go. Penn State pushed the ball up the floor, only two see Marshall's potential tying layup blocked by Iowa's Melsahn Basabe.
Hawkeye Roy Devyn Marble grabbed the ball, was fouled and made two free throws. The score was 72-68. Then Newbill countered with a layup to trim the lead to 72-70 with five seconds left. Penn State was not done yet, though, and fouled Basabe with four seconds to go. He made the first and missed the second, and PSU went flying down the floor.
Down 73-70, Marshall was fouled with one second left. He made the first to cut it to 73-71 and then -- while trying to intentionally miss the second to give his teammates a chance to grab an offensive rebound and score the tying bucket -- Marshall's line drive somehow went in.
We actually tried to miss the free throw and we made it, Lion coach Pat Chambers lamented. And the ones we're trying to make, we miss.
Added Marshall, I should have gotten it done. Unfortunately, it went in.
Only in this difficult season could making a free throw become an issue. Iowa (16-9, 5-7), meanwhile, did everything it needed to do to pull out the win. Marble made a free throw with a fraction of a second left and the missed the second on purpose to kill the clock and account for the final score.
We made enough free throws, enough plays to beat a team whose going to fight you like no other team, Hawkeye coach Fran McCaffery said.
Penn State got off to another slow start in this game and was trailing 17-7 at the 13:00 mark of the first half. But then the Nittany Lions unleashed one of their best offensive barrages of the Big Ten season.
Behind the outside scoring of Newbill and Marshall, and a suddenly potent inside punch from center Sasa Borovnjak, PSU went on a 16-0 run. Borovnjak capped it with a layup at the 9:16 mark, giving the Lions a 23-17 lead. State was tallying points so fast (for it) that the scoreboard stopped working for a moment, and the PA man had to give score updates.
Of course, sustained scoring has not been a strength of the Lions this season. And as quickly as they heated up, they cooled off even faster, allowing the Hawkeyes to uncork an 11-0 rally of their own thanks primarily to the long-range scoring of guard Mike Gesell.
Both clubs eventually leveled off, though, and Iowa took a 38-34 lead into the locker room after standout forward Aaron White hit his only bucket of the half -- a 3-pointer -- at the buzzer.
But Newbill was the star of the period. His line from the opening 20 minutes included 16 points (on 7 of 9 shooting), three rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block. It kept PSU in the game even though the Lions were outrebounded 24-11 and shot only two free throws (making both).
Iowa appeared to blow it open early in the second half, leading by as many as 12 (61-49) before the Lions came storming back.
What Penn State has done all season long is, if you don't take it from them, they're going to keep coming, McCaffery said. They're going to close it and make it the kind of game it ended up being.
The just could not close it all the way.
We tried, we really tried, Chambers said. The ball just didn't go in for us, it bounced the other way.
There were 1,420 students in the crowd of 7,636. Chambers pledged $10 to this weekend's THON for every student who attended the game, so his donation will be $14,200.
Marshall finished with 14 points and 10 assists. His previous career high for assists was five.
Borovnjak had 14 points but only three rebounds.
Outside of Newbill, Marshall and Borovnjak, the rest of the Lions combined to score 18 points.
Newbill was 3 of 5 from the arc. His season high for a game had been two triples and he had only made one 3-pointer in 20 previous attempts in Big Ten play.
Marble led Iowa with 22 points.
PSU also lost 12 straight to start Big Ten play in 2009-10.
Penn State is at No. 4 Michigan Sunday. The game tips at noon and can be seen on the BTN.