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5 Takeaways from Penn State’s Win over Iowa

Penn State men’s basketball made it three straight wins in Big Ten play on Thursday night as the Nittany Lions pulled away from Iowa late at the Bryce Jordan Center for a 89-79 victory. The win marks the Nittany Lions’ first at home after two straight road trips that included wins over Rutgers and Indiana.

Penn State was led by 22 points from Ace Baldwin Jr. while D’Marco Dunn added 12 alongside a tandem of Zach Hicks and Qudus Wahab, who both scored 14 of their own. Penn State is back on the road this weekend to face Northwestern Sunday at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT on the Big Ten Network.

Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s game.

Kanye Back: After missing two games with an injury, Penn State guard Kanye Clary was back in action on Thursday night coming off the bench. Clary finished the night with eight points and three assists in 18 minutes of action and it will be interesting to see if Clary resumes his role as Penn State’s starting point guard in the future. It seems absurd to think that Clary – among the nation’s most improved players – won’t find his way back into Penn State’s starting five, but it’s also hard to ignore how well the Nittany Lions have played in his absence. Clary will be a key part of Penn State’s success moving forward no matter what, but it’s safe to say this team has figure out how to win without him. A good sign in the long run, even if it muddies the waters a bit right now.

Ace Baldwin Jr.: Baldwin continued his elite form on Thursday with 22 points [13 of those coming in the final 3:48], six assists and four steals as he remains one of the best two-way players Penn State has trotted out onto the court over the course of the program’s history. Baldwin has found an efficient scoring touch as of late and his 9-for-9 free throw line mark only adds to his arsenal of things he can do to punish opponents. Penn State finished with four players having scored 12 or more points, but nobody does it like Baldwin does. Time will tell if he can continue this run of play if Clary sees his minutes increase alongside his fellow guard.

Three Ball: Over the last two games Penn State has gone 12-for-22 and on Thursday 12-for-23 from beyond the arc as the Nittany Lions are finding their stroke from deep. Penn State is never going to be the team it was last year from three point land but the Nittany Lions – like just about every team in America – are much better when they can keep opponents honest from all three depths on the court. Jameel Brown isn’t getting into Penn State’s starting five, but he has hit seven of his last 13 attempts from beyond the arc. He’s up to five times this season with games that he has hit three or more shots from range. Penn State attempted 11 shots in the final 8:17 of regulation – five of them were from three point land and all five of them were makes.

Penn State’s Qudus Wahab puts up a shot over Iowa’s Payton Sandfort. Photo by Greg Guise

Closing Power: Penn State took a one point game in the final minutes of regulation and ran away with a 15-6 run in the final 3:20 to turn a toss-up contest into a commanding victory. The Nittany Lions have their flaws, but the better they get at closing out games the better this program will be. Historically Penn State hasn’t had a hard time being in games, but here have been issues in the past finding ways to win. If Mike Rhoades can get his teams to turn close games into sizable wins in the final minutes that’ll be a big step for this program. Then again, finding a way to pull away late in regulation is only the goal of every coach in the nation. Penn State only missed four shots in the final 12:53 of regulation, that helps too.

25-31: For the most part Penn State has not been a team that shoots a ton of free throws – 124th nationally in free throws per game – but the Nittany Lions went to the line 31 times and made 25 of those attempts. Penn State entered the night shooting 73.84% from the line this season a mark that isn’t great and isn’t horrible. More importantly for Rhoades and company was simply getting to the line. Four different players went perfect from the line for Penn State on Thursday night, a good sign if you want to make the most of limited attempts, and a good sign if Penn State can combined a growing ability to close out games with the fact there are no obvious players to send to the line late in those games.