IOWA CITY – Too big. Too strong. Two losses.
This hasn’t been the start to the Big Ten season envisioned by the Iowa women’s basketball team.
Defending conference champion Penn State handed the 22nd-rated Hawkeyes their second conference loss in an as many games Sunday, rolling to an 87-71 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The 15th-ranked Nittany Lions overwhelmed Iowa with their size, dominating the Hawkeyes on the boards before allowing Big Ten preseason player of the year Maggie Lucas to finish off the win.
“To play with a team like that, you have stick to the fundamentals and shoot the ball well and we didn’t do those things,’’ Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Playing with as much of a size disadvantage as the Hawkeyes have had this season, the Hawkeyes attempted to deny the ball to Penn State’s interior players and provide some backside help, but it made little difference.
“They’re so big and strong and hard to get around,’’ Bluder said.
The Nittany Lions overwhelmed the Hawkeyes on the boards, out-rebounding Iowa 50-34 including 16 offensive rebounds which led Penn State to a 16-1 edge in second-chance points that essentially separated the two teams.
“We felt like we could have an advantage there, although early on we didn’t make it an advantage,’’ Nittany Lions coach Coquese Washington said. “Once that happened, things started to turn our way.’’
Iowa trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half and used a late surge to pull within 38-30 at the break.
The Hawkeyes (12-4, 0-2 Big Ten) eventually cut the Penn State lead to 44-43 on a lay-in by Theirra Taylor with 15 minutes, 52 seconds remaining but the Nittany Lions never relinquished a lead they held the entire game.
A three-point play by Talia East, one of five Penn State players to finish in double figures, allowed the Nittany Lions (10-3, 1-0) to regain control.
Once Iowa surged again, pulling within 61-58 with 9:15 remaining on back-to-back 3-pointers by Melissa Dixon and Samantha Logic, Lucas took control.
The senior guard scored 16 of her game-high 27 points in the final 7:03. That included 10 points during a 14-5 run which left Iowa in a 79-65 hole with 4 minutes to play.
“She can score so many ways,’’ said Logic, who finished with 13 points and 12 assists to complement the 22 points Iowa picked up from Dixon.
Held scoreless for a stretch of just under 28 minutes before her strong finish, Lucas buried a three-point shot, scored on a three-point play and hit all seven free throws she attempted during the final minutes of the game.
“We controlled her for a bit, but at the end she got it going again,’’ Logic said. “She showed why she is one of the top of one or two players in the league.’’