It wasn't pretty, but it was enough.
Penn State's 65-51 win over Iowa Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center certainly wasn't the team's best effort, as it led the owners to the Big Ten's worst record by only one at half time, but it allowed the Nittany Lions (11-8, 4-4) to even their conference record and remain in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament.
Talor Battle led all scorers with 23 points. Jeff Brooks finished with 22 points and three rebounds and Andrew Jones fell just short of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. As a team, Penn State shot 53% from the field, giving the Lions their first stretch of three Big Ten games with better than 50% shooting for the first time since 1999.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was especially impressed with Brooks' performance.
"He is really playing with confidence," McCaffery said. "Very few guys with his length can go off the dribble and shoot threes like that. But his energy level was always there so he's always flying on the glass and he impacts the game in so many different ways."
Brooks' point total was one off his career high and Penn State remained unbeaten when the senior forward his thee or more 3-pointers.
Despite those big performances, though, the Lions found themselves down by as many as 11 points in the first half. It was an effort coach Ed DeChellis wasn't pleased with afterward.
"We didn't rebound, we threw the ball away, we weren't aggressive offensively we were probably 180 the way we needed to come out and play after losing two games," DeChellis said. "I don't think we win that game last year."
The Lions racked up 14 turnovers on the evening, and managed only a 13-11 rebounding edge at halftime before turning things on in the second half to outrebound the Hawkeyes 30-21.
Things went well defensively, however. Penn State limited Iowa to 37% shooting from the field and 52 points. As DeChellis pointed out after the game, the Lions like to keep teams in the 60s, so holding Iowa below 60 was important in the win.
No Hawkeye scored more than 11 points on the night and star freshman forward Melsahn Basabe was held to four points in limited minutes.
Still, though, the players know they'll have to play better when they host No. 15 Wisconsin on Saturday at the Jordan Center.
"Wisconsin's a great basketball team and we're a good basketball team," Brooks said. "The biggest key is that we come out with energy and provide effort."