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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Upset No. 4 Iowa

by on February 17, 2016 9:55 PM

With 8:10 left to play Donovon Jack drove down the right side of the court and leapt into the air.

Somewhere along the way the ball left his hand -perhaps not intentionally- floating aimlessly off towards the basket. Either by the grace of physics or a merciful basketball God, that same ball found its way to the rim before ending its journey through the hoop.

Meanwhile Jack continued his unconventional path towards two points, nearly landing on his head while falling face down on the court with no idea how the play ended.

The answer, two points and a free throw. More importantly for the senior, a 57-51 lead over No. 4 ranked Iowa.

"I didn't even know it went in," Jack said with a smile after the game. "I was more scared, I had fallen earlier in the year and had hurt my back so I was more scared I would get hurt again. But the first thing I asked (Brandon Taylor) when I got up was if it went in. It went in, so I don't know if it was a game changing but it helped us keep rolling forward."

If anything it was that moment that proved to be something of a long career of bad luck finally going Jack's way. He entered Wednesday night more prone to fouls, both legitimate and controversial with a tendency to simply find himself on the wrong end of things. It's not for a lack of effort or a lack of even potential, things just never seem to go his way.

So it was fitting that Jack lead Penn State with 19 points, on 8-of-9 shooting and two blocks and five rebounds. Jack is in his own way the path of Penn State basketball in the flesh. He's not bad, he's just never quite good enough. He isn't quitting but trying hard only gets your so far.

But Penn State basketball is changing for the better much like Jack. Just days ago he and coach Pat Chambers sat down to talk about expectations for the rest of the season, and the final few games of his collegiate career.

The result of that meeting turned out to be one of the best games of Jack's career. 

"He just kept working and working and not giving up and kept a great attitude," Chambers said after the game. "He played with incredible confidence and poise and composure. The layup he has, a couple plays he made. Timely, timely. He was ready to make that big jump or that big leap tonight."

Some four hours across the state on the hallowed court of The Palestra in Philadelphia, Penn State's future is also playing. Roman Catholic, a team that starts three future Nittany Lions is taking on its latest opponent in the Catholic League playoffs.

As it pertains to the game itself, Penn State's win on Wednesday was the result of things finally working out like they can. The Nittany Lions made seven shots from deep in the opening 20 minutes to erase an early 8-0 hole and turn it into a 38-31 halftime lead. Penn State passed the ball well, played stout defense and held serve with an Iowa team hard to get beat on the glass. 

The second half was largely more of the game. Penn State made timely shots down the stretch, never letting Iowa get closer than three points. The Hawkeyes got 28 from Peter Jok, but outside of a scoring-by-volume-shooting performance by Jarrod Uthoff, it was 35 free throw attempts that kept things close.

Penn State led by nine with 39 seconds to play, but Iowa somewhat predictably did what all opponents do to Penn State, making things harder than they needed to be.

But it was clutch free throw shooting down the stretch that kept Penn State in front and afforded the Nittany Lions the opportunity to enjoy the win before the clock finally read 00:00.

Taylor finsihed with 18, Shep Garner 18 of his own on 6-of-10 shooting to break a long slump. Jack's 19 setting the pace while Isaiah Washington and Payton Banks gutted out 9 and 8 points respectively.

By the time it was all over the stands had emptied into the court just around the time the likes of Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick and Lamar Stevens take the court in Philadelphia.

And as that game tipped Penn State fans sang the alma mater, and the words of "For the future that we wait" rang through a surprisingly energetic Bryce Jordan Center.

Those fans may not have to wait much longer for it.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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