IOWA CITY – Not many fans, experts, or perhaps even players would have picked Iowa to defeat Penn State prior to the season. The Nittany Lions came into Carver-Hawkeye arena Thursday ranked No. 8 in the country, with three losses on their resume – at Miami, at Connecticut, at Wisconsin.
The hope lied in the “at” for the Hawkeyes. Perhaps another road test would see the Hawkeyes best Penn State and end a four-game losing streak.
Iowa lost that hope with a 17-4 Lady Lion run in the second half, which handed the Hawkeyes their fifth straight defeat, 81-69, the most since the 2006-07 season.
Sure, at the start of the year, experts penciled this in as a “loss to a good team,” but as it marked the fifth straight, it wasn’t easy to look over.
“Anytime you lose a game it’s tough,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “But when you’ve lost five in a row, it’s really tough.”
The Hawkeye who faced the toughest night? Jaime Printy.
Iowa’s leading scorer played 29 minutes and finished with two made free throws on her only attempts. The two points ranked as the second worst performance of the year, behind a one-point effort against Illinois State where she had one point in 15 minutes. Printy shot 0 for 4 against the Red Birds, Thursday she went 0 for 5.
“I think a lot of ball pressure and yeah unfortunately she got rattled out there tonight,” Bluder said.
In the midst of the four-game slide, Printy had been Bluder’s most consistent scorer. She averaged 15.5 points in those games and was the only Hawkeye to reach double figures in each of the four losses.
“Printy’s a great shooter and if she gets wide open looks, she’s going to knock them down,” Penn State head coach Coquese Washington said. “So a point of emphasis for us was certainly not to letting her have wide open looks and making it tough for her to get easy touches.”
Melissa Dixon did her best to pick up the scoring, finishing with 16 points, second to only Morgan Johnson’s 17. Dixon continued her hot hand from deep, making 4 of 9, increasing her total to 9 of 19 in the last two games.
The sophomore shooting guard dropped 10 of her 16 in the first half, helping the Hawkeyes to just a three-point deficit at the half.
“The first half we did a pretty good job of running the offense, really letting the offense work so that created a lot of open shots,” Dixon said.
Take away Dixon’s 16 and the backcourt for Iowa – Printy and Sam Logic – combined for 11 points. On the other side Penn State’s Maggie Lucas poured in 21 and Alex Bentley added 14.
Iowa survived without Printy’s production in the first half, but its two leading scorers in the first 20 minutes – Dixon and Bethany Doolittle – saw their production drop from 18 to 11.
The offense saw the effect during a 12-minute stretch of the second half. During that time the Hawkeyes scored just four points on one field goal, while the Nittany Lions put up 17.
“I think just our transition defense really needed to be better in this game,” Johnson said. “We were told before the game, we knew that was a key coming in and we just didn’t really stop it.”
They couldn’t stop Penn State, and with, the Hawkeyes couldn’t stop its season from unraveling. Sixteen days ago the Hawkeyes boasted a 16-4 record, a No. 24 ranking and a flawless 6-0 record against ranked teams.
Now they’re struggling to get a win, no matter the opponent.
“It’s a long season and we have to understand that each game is important and that we are still a good team,” Johnson said. “That we are still that good team that played early in the season.”
No. 8 PENN STATE 81, IOWA 69
The “Double Bonus:” Gazette reporter Michael Bonner’s quick reaction to Iowa’s women losing at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to No. 8 Penn State on Thursday.
Game Ball: Penn State’s starting backcourt – Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley combined to score 35 points, dish out five assists, turn the ball over just three times and create five steals in 65 minutes.
Lame Ball: Iowa’s Jaime Printy – the Hawkeye guard missed all five of her attempts from the field, turned the ball over six times in 29 minutes.
Light the victory cigar: 5:44 second half – Alex Bentley gets a steal in the backcourt, lays it in to give Penn State at 16-point lead.
Watercooler stat: Iowa lost its fifth in a row and first to a ranked team this season on Thursday. The losing streak is the longest since the 2006-07 season. The Hawkeyes haven’t lost more than five games in a row since 1998-99.
Big Number: 7:11 – minutes in the second half during which Iowa mustered just one field goal and four points. Penn State outscored Iowa 17-4 during that stretch.