Penn State Takes On Iowa in the Prime Time

Penn State Takes On Iowa in the Prime Time

It is only fitting that Penn State’s final
road game before Halloween should be played in a true house of horrors.
Kinnick Stadium, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, has long been an unkind destination
for Penn State, with the Nittany Lions leaving Iowa City with their
last win there in 1999. Needless to say, a lot has happened since the
day Downingtown native Aaron Harris sealed a Penn State victory with
a touchdown run down the left sideline.

The Donovan McNabb era started and ran its course. A trip to the Super
Bowl is all but a faded painful memory at this point. The Sixers saw
Allen Iverson lead the team to the NBA Finals, leave town and return…
and leave again. The Phillies ended Philadelphia’s championship drought.
Arena football came to town, went on hiatus and returned again. Professional
soccer also kicked off in town. Temple was kicked out of the Big East
and welcomed back. The Flyers saw a season wiped off the calendar, and
if Penn State loses this weekend they could have a second season erased
as well.

Though he has only just joined the program this season, head coach
Bill O’Brien is well aware of the history he has inherited with the
program as it pertains to Iowa.

“It’s a very difficult place to play, as are most of the
places in the Big Ten.  It's going to be an electric atmosphere,” O’Brien
said this week. “The crowd noise is definitely going to be a factor,
so we've got to make sure that we deal with that in the right way. So
we've got to practice with crowd noise and make sure that our players
do a great job of communicating offense, defense, and special teams.
But again, it's not going to be anything like what it's like on Saturday
night, so hopefully we can just give them a picture of it, and then
when they get there Saturday night, they have a better understanding
of how to deal with those things.”

Penn State heads to Iowa coming off a bye week, hoping to keep the
momentum going after winning four straight games. The bye week may have
helped the team get a little stronger, with sophomore running back Bill
Belton back to 100 percent ready to add some more options to the offense.
Belton is not the only player who could have used the bye week right
in the middle of the season. O’Brien says the timing of the bye week
was good for his team, who has been playing a physical style since training
camp.

“It's better to have it then than it is after the
first game or something like that,” O’Brien said. “I think the
bye week helped a lot of those guys, Billy [Belton] included, and yesterday
Billy did some nice things in practice, as did a lot of those guys that
were banged up.“

Having Belton available will help Penn State try to improve their
rushing production, which ranks 11th in the Big Ten.
Penn State’s running game has shown to drop off following the loss
of Silas Redd to USC and with Belton working through some ankle issues
this season, but the slack has been picked up by continued improved
play of quarterback Matt McGloin.

McGloin enters the week leading the Big Ten in passing
with 429.8 yards per game and 12 touchdowns. He has also avoided being
a turnover machine, with just two interceptions. This week McGloin and
O’Brien’s pass-happy style will take on their toughest test against
the pass so far this season. Iowa ranks fourth in the Big Ten, allowing
just five touchdowns and owning seven interceptions.

The Hawkeyes may also have to try getting their offense going without
their top running back, Mark Weisman, who is doubtful for Saturday night’s
game. He has been cleared to play, but it remains unknown if he will
see any action against Penn State. Then again, this could all be a sly
trick to keep Penn State’s coaching staff guessing and preparing for
the wrong guys. Nobody would put Kirk Ferentz past that sort of mind
game. He’s a competitor and knows how to get an upper hand against
Penn State.

One key to the game this weekend for Penn State will be continuing
to convert inside the red zone. O’Brien has shown no hesitation to
go for it on fourth down, which may have been aided by a struggling
kicking game, but against Iowa it could be the big difference.
Iowa’s red zone defense has struggled this season, allowing teams
to leave the red zone with points on 18 out of 21 trips, including eight
touchdowns and 10 field goals. For Penn State, it could be touchdowns
or else.

Penn State’s defense has been the real story of
the season, though. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in red zone defense,
allowing scores just 11 out of 16 times inside the 20-yard line and
allowing opponents inside the red zone just 16 times this season (second
best in the Big Ten; Wisconsin, 14). But of those 11 scores allowed,
nine have been touchdowns for the opponents, which would indicate if
Iowa can get close the odds are good they will pick up a touchdown.
The Hawkeyes have allowed 16 and 13 points in each of their past two
points in Big Ten play and fewer than 20 points five times this season.
Iowa’s defense has frustrated Penn State’s offense over the years
and appears capable of doing the same once again this season.

But that was a vanilla style offense under Joe Paterno,
with a predictable scheme consisting of run-run-pass more often than
not. Against Iowa, mixing it up is critical to keep the front seven
on their toes. That has been one of the big differences under O’Brien,
where the offense is being opened up more so than ever before, and O’Brien
taking full advantage of all four downs more often than ever before
seen in the Penn State program.

It is a new era at Penn State, of course, but will
it be a new theme in Iowa or more of the same?

Penn State plays Iowa at 8:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network.

Temple keeps spirits high after suffering another close loss at home

Temple keeps spirits high after suffering another close loss at home

BOX SCORE

Temple and UCF nearly exchanged fists a couple times throughout the contest.

In the final two minutes of regulation, they exchanged three-pointers. But Temple couldn’t connect on its attempts at the knockout.

Temple's two missed shots in the waning seconds cost them the game, as they fell short to UCF on Wednesday, 71-69 (see Instant Replay). It was the Owls’ second consecutive game they’ve dropped with under a minute to go at the Liacouras Center. 

Out of the timeout with 13 seconds to go in the game, Daniel Dingle found a wide open Mark Williams on the wing but his three-pointer rimmed out as Temple (14-15, 5-11 AAC) lost its third consecutive game. Williams finished with 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting off the bench in the contest for the Owls.

"We went to our fifth senior, Dan. We just gave Dan the ball and told him to go make a play," Shizz Alston Jr. said. “He's our leader, he's our fifth-year senior. He made a good play and kicked it to Mark, another senior, and the ball just didn't go in. But it was well-executed. We wouldn't want the ball in two other peoples’ hands, our two leaders."

The lead changed four times in the final two minutes of the contest.

B.J. Taylor drilled a step-back three to give UCF (18-10, 9-7 AAC) a two-point lead with just under two minutes to go in the game.

Obi Enechionyia answered with a three of his own on the ensuing possession to give the Owls a 69-68 lead with 1:27 left in the contest. The junior looked like the player from earlier in the season that received a lot of NBA draft attention. 

After shooting the ball 0 for 3 in the first half and turning the ball over two times, Enechionyia finished the game with 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. He also shot 5 of 6 from beyond the arc in the second half.

It was the most points Enechionyia scored since recording a season-high 26 points against Saint Joseph's on Nov. 30.

"It's great to watch him tonight, especially in the second half where he was knocking it out," Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. "If this is 'getting over it,’ that would be great. It would certainly help us through the regular-season games and in the playoffs as well."

Still, Enechionyia’s night wasn’t a complete success. He missed a potential go-ahead jumper with 35 seconds left on the clock.

Temple had a tough time avoiding Tacko Fall throughout the game. At 7-6 and 290 pounds, the Senegal native clogged up a good chunk of the paint. He finished the game with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also had five blocks and two assists.

But when Fall picked up his second foul with just under five minutes to go in the first half, Temple only allowed UCF to score two field goals in the final eight minutes of the frame. 

"Tacko's tough," Dunphy said. "We needed help on the back side a little bit more than we go it. He made a couple of dunks that were pretty free and easy. He's so difficult to defend out there and he knows how to play. He's really getting to be a good basketball player in addition to being that size and length that's so intimidating." 

Things got pretty chippy in the second half between Alston and Matt Williams. As Williams reeled in a pass on the wing, he brought the ball across his body and hit Alston with his elbow, leaving him with a bloody lip. The two had to be separated as Alston got in Williams’ face after getting off the floor.

The officials ruled the elbow by Williams a basketball play and didn’t call a foul.

Minutes later, Williams shoved Alston near the scorer’s table after he made a steal but this time the officials called it a foul. 

"It was just two guys being competitive," Alston said.

Following the incidents between Alston and Williams, fans at the Liacouras Center booed Williams every time he touched the ball. Williams made all but two shots with the boos raining down on him as he scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half to go along with five rebounds and three assists. 

Alston was second in scoring for Temple behind Enechionyia with 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting. 

With two games remaining on the regular-season schedule before the AAC tournament, Alston believes with the way the Owls played against UCF, they can make a run in the conference tournament. 

"We lost this one, but the bright spot, like you guys said, Obi started making shots," Alston said. "When he's making shots, I think we're unbeatable. Even though we lost this one, I'm taking away he had 17 [points] in the second half and I know what he can do when he's hitting shots. He's one of the best players in the country.

"If he's making shots and Dan's playing well, I'm playing well, [Quinton Rose] is playing well, we're a tough team to play. So I think we're going to make a deep run and win the tournament."

Instant Replay: No. 22 Butler 74, No. 2 Villanova 66

Instant Replay: No. 22 Butler 74, No. 2 Villanova 66

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. – No. 22 Butler scored 18 straight points down the stretch and stunned No. 2 Villanova 74-66 Wednesday night at the Pavilion.

The loss was the third this year for the defending national champs and the second to Butler. It was also Villanova’s first loss on campus in more than four years.

Villanova led by as many as eight points early in the second half and by seven at 49-42 with 9½ minutes left before Butler scored 18 straight points over a 5½-minute span to take a 60-49 lead with four minutes left.

Villanova went scoreless from 10:35 left in the game to 4:05, a span of 6½ minutes.

Villanova cut the lead from 11 to four in the final minute but Butler made its final eight foul shots to secure its first win ever on the road against the Wildcats.

The loss was the first ever on campus for Villanova’s seniors. Villanova hadn’t lost at the Pavilion since February of 2013.

Sophomore Jalen Brunson shot 9 for 13 after his 7 for 7 against Seton Hall Saturday and finished with 24 points.

The rest of the Wildcats shot a combined 16 for 44.

Josh Hart scored 18 points on 7 for 18 shooting.

Kris Jenkins shot just 1 for 8 and 1 for 5 from three for three points, and Mikal Bridges also had three points on just 1 for 3 from the field.

Butler led 8-0 after 3½ minutes before Villanova outscored the Bulldogs 44-28 over the next 22½ minutes to take their biggest lead, 44-36, with 13 minutes left.

What it means 
Butler, which beat Villanova 66-58 on Jan. 4 in Indianapolis, completed a season sweep of Villanova. Butler was 0-7 before this year against the Wildcats.

Villanova fell to 26-3 and 13-3 in the Big East. Butler improved to 22-6 and 11-5, keeping alive its hopes of winning the Big East regular-season title.

One more Villanova win or Butler loss and Creighton loss would deliver the conference title and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament to the Wildcats.

The loss ended Villanova’s record 48-game winning streak at the Pavilion. The Wildcats’ last loss on campus was by a 55-52 score to Providence on Feb. 3, 2013.

Stat of the day
Hart, a 79 percent foul shooter, was 0 for 4 from the foul line and missed two front ends of one-and-ones.  

Turning point
The Wildcats led by six when Kelan Martin and Tyler Lewis made threes 45 seconds apart to tie the game at 49 and start that 18-0 run. Villanova never got the momentum back.

By the numbers
• Martin led Butler with 16 points and Kamar Baldwin added 15 before fouling out.

• Butler shot 7 for 13 from three in the second half and 10 for 25 overall.

• Villanova was just 5 for 19 from three.

• Villanova committed 10 of its 15 turnovers in the first half 

• Villanova shot just 10 for 16 from the foul line, with seven of the 10 makes coming in the final 79 seconds 

• Butler had 21 assists on 27 baskets, Villanova had eight assists on 23 baskets 

• Villanova scored 17 points in the game’s final 4:05 

• Senior post Darryl Reynolds, Villanova’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, sat out a fourth straight game with a rib injury. He’s considered day to day.

What’s next
On Saturday afternoon, Villanova plays its final game at the Pavilion until November of 2018, facing Creighton at 3 p.m.

Villanova will play most of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center next year.

The Wildcats finish the regular season at Georgetown on March 4 and open play in the Big East Tournament five days later.