Coming off a game that saw a Penn State lead for most of the contest and end up a 76-68 defeat at the hands of No. 5 Michigan State, the Nittany Lions hope to get back on track when they host Iowa.

 

Players to Watch:

Tyler Cook

The sophomore forward leads the charge for the Hawkeyes heading into the matchup vs. the Nittany Lions. Tyler Cook leads the team in points (15.4 per game), rebounds (6.8 per game) and field goal percentage (57.6%). After putting up 23 points and 12 boards in the previous matchup against the Nittany Lions, Cook will need to be the focus on defense.

At 6-foot-9, Cook makes his living around the rim and that was evident with his 23 points and 12 rebound performance against Penn State that also included a highlight dunk. It will need to be a full 40-minute team effort to stop Cook in this one for the Nittany Lions, something they weren’t unable to do against Miles Bridges in the loss against Michigan State Wednesday night.

Shep Garner

After three straight games with double figures in points, senior guard Shep Garner has put up six points in each of the past two games while going 4-13 combined from the field and 4-11 from three. Head coach Pat Chambers made note of the need to get him more shots and more involved in the offense but credited the Michigan State defense on the inability to get him the ball last game.

When Penn State previously played Iowa, Garner put up 12 points from four three-pointers and the Nittany Lions will need him to get back on track for this Big Ten matchup. The Hawkeyes are in the bottom three amongst opponents three-point percentage in the Big Ten at 36.1% while the Nittany Lions shoot 37.9% from behind the arc on the season including 41.7% from Garner.

Mike Watkins

The anchor of the Penn State defense, redshirt sophomore Mike Watkins, showed his importance to this team by not even being on the floor. The 6-foot-9 forward was hampered for much of the second half against Michigan State due to foul trouble and his presence was sorely missed as Miles Bridges and Spartans got everything they wanted in the paint.

Watkins will need to put up a similar stat line to the game earlier in the season when he scored 19 points on 9-13 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and three blocks if the Nittany Lions want to come out with a win. As the main interior presence, Watkins performance will play a decisive factor in a matchup against a tall frontcourt in Iowa that outrebounded Penn State 39-30 on Dec. 2.

Keys for Penn State

Intense defensive effort for 40 minutes

In their last game, Penn State played stout defense in the first half, holding Michigan State to just 24 points and double-digit turnovers. However, in the second half there was no stopping the Spartans who would outscore the Nittany Lions by 20 points in the final 15:23 of the game while scoring 52 points in the half.

Going up against an Iowa team looking to get some revenge over a Big Ten foe in Penn State that beat them on their home floor in early December, the Nittany Lions cant have the type of second-half performance they did against Michigan State and expect to beat anyone.

 

Keep the flow on offense

Penn State has the talent to have a very potent offense when they get movement and ball penetration but as you saw vs. Michigan State and many times throughout the season, they can also get very stagnant for long stretches.

Going up against a more inferior defensive unit in Iowa in comparison to Michigan State, Penn State should have an easier time finding success getting the offense into a rhythm on a more consistent basis in this one.

 

Prediction: Penn State 71 Iowa 63

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