Iowa will face Penn State’s potent one-two guard punch for the first time Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions’ starting guard court of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill has been a handful for many opponents, averaging 33.3 points a game. The 16th-ranked Hawkeyes will have to keep them in check if they want to collect their eighth Big Ten win in a noon contest.
Frazier, a point guard, scored 18 and 23 points when Iowa and Penn State split in 2011-12. Newbill was sitting out as a redshirt after transferring in from Southern Mississippi. Frazier suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury four games into the 2012-13 campaign. Newbill, forced to play point guard in Frazier’s absence, scored 20 and 26 points in two losses to the Hawkeyes.
Now Frazier is back at point guard, Newbill is back at shooting guard and the Nittany Lions, 13-12 overall and 4-8 in the Big Ten, will trying to win for the fifth time in seven starts.
Iowa, 18-6 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten, has also gotten excellent play out of its starting guard court. Mike Gesell leads the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.7. Devyn Marble, fully aware of the challenge awaiting the Hawkeyes in State College, is the second-leading scorer in Big Ten play at 17.8 points a game.
“Frazier is the primary ballhandler,” Marble said. “He’s able to create and get in the lane and kick it out to Newbill, who is able to knock down those perimeter jump shots. It’s probably something we would have given him last year.”
Newbill averaged 16.3 points last season, shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range. This season, he’s averaging 17.2 points a game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from 3.
“This year he’s able to hit that shot, he’s able to drive the ball and he’s one of the best finishers in the Big Ten getting into the lane,” Marble said.
The duo of Frazier, who averages 16.1 points and is one of 10 players in Big Ten history to eclipse 600 assists, and Newbill has Iowa coach Fran McCaffery concerned.
“They are experienced players who are good off the dribble, crafty, and both can shoot from the outside,” McCaffery said. “They are both tough covers. If a guy is really quick and he can’t shoot, that isn’t as difficult to guard. They are both shooting the ball, so it’s a little bit different.”
McCaffery said the Hawkeyes will have to deploy a team effort defensively, much like the performance they turned in a week ago in an 85-67 home victory over Michigan.
Iowa won three of five road games in the first half of the Big Ten season. That includes an 81-74 victory in the Hawkeyes’ most recent road game at Illinois on Feb.1. Iowa built a 21-point lead in that game, then fell behind by five. The Illini made the comeback with good guard play, beating Iowa on dribble penetration and finishing or kicking out to open shooters.
Keeping Frazier and Newbill from doing the same thing is mandatory if the Hawkeyes want to notch a fourth league road win.
“They … present challenges that we haven’t seen this year,” Marble said. “Stopping penetration is key for us, to limit them in the lane.”
Who: Iowa (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten) vs. Penn State (13-12, 4-8 Big Ten).
Specifics: Noon at the Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.
Hawkeye preview: The Hawkeyes will be trying to win a fourth Big Ten road game for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Iowa is 12-0 this season when holding opponents to 70 points or less. Penn State is averaging 65.5 points in Big Ten games.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball