It was Valentine’s Day, and Melsahn Basabe was slinging arrows.
One free throw was already in the bank, giving his Iowa team a 73-70 lead Thursday night at Penn State with 4.5 seconds to play. After a timeout, Basabe returned to the line with a chance to put the Nittany Lions away for good. Television cameras caught him telling Penn State players that he was going to make it.
“Something like that, you’ve got to be confident,” Basabe said. “I’m a pretty confident person.”
He missed, setting up a another frenetic finish for a Hawkeye team that has invented new and heartbreaking ways to lose on the road.
So when the 74-72 victory was in the books, an Iowa team playing for its postseason life wasn’t about to apologize for a narrow escape against a Penn State team that fell to 0-12 in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes’ second Big Ten road victory of the season came on the heels of an overtime loss at Purdue, a three-point loss at Minnesota and a double overtime loss at Wisconsin. Iowa had the lead with less than a minute to play in regulation in all three. Those losses dropped Iowa’s Big Ten record to 3-7 and nearly extinguished all chances of the school’s first NCAA bid since 2006.
But hope springs eternal, even if it’s just a flicker. With eight regular-season games remaining heading into a Feb. 9 home game against Northwestern, Iowa knew it had to nearly run the table to stay alive short of a Big Ten Tournament title. A 10-8 league mark, and a 7-1 finish, would get them serious NCAA consideration.
It’s now two down, with six to go. One of them is at No. 1 Indiana on March 2.
Of more importance is Sunday’s 1 p.m. game with Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Gophers are coming off a must-win overtime triumph over visiting Wisconsin Thursday.
After a 15-1 start and an 11-week residence in the Associated Press Top 25, Coach Tubby Smith’s team is coming to town unranked after six losses in their previous nine games.
Penn State entered Thursday’s game last in the Big Ten in scoring (54.8 points a game), field-goal percentage (.353) and three-point percentage (.236). Coach Pat Chambers said his team was due for a good shooting night.
The Nittany Lions made a Big Ten-high eight 3-pointers against Iowa. Their 72 points matched their season high in a Big Ten game. And their 44.3 percent shooting from the field was their best performance in eight games.
“When guys start making shots, now they’re a different team,” McCaffery said. “Now they’re a handful.”
For once, fate turned Iowa’s way in the final minute. D.J. Newbill, who scored 26 points, missed a 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play and his team down, 70-68. Then Jermaine Marshall’s driving layup to tie the game with :22 left was blocked by Basabe.
“I was just protecting the basket, doing my job,” Basabe said.
After Basabe missed his second free throw, a crazy chain of events took place. McCaffery told his team to foul Penn State before it could attempt a 3. Marble fouled Marshall with :01.5 to go. Marshall made the first free throw and was supposed to intentionally miss the second. It went in.
Marble was fouled on the in-bounds pass, and went to the line with a second to go. He made the first, and intentionally missed the second, forcing a desperation full-court heave at the buzzer.
“(Brandon) Taylor has to grab a rebound, turn and make an 85-foot shot,” McCaffery said. “If he does that, we go home.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball