UNIVERSITY PARK - It's a two-game win streak for Penn State that's four combined points short of cheeseburgers in paradise.
The Penn State Nittany Lions won their second straight Thursday night, 69-64 over the Iowa Hawkeyes, but again fell just short of a 70-point barrier that awards free Big Macs to those in attendance.
Lion players left the court to student-section boos after their 67-51 victory last Saturday over Nebraska, though Penn State coach Pat Chambers bought 200 Big Macs for students earlier in the week to make up for it.
The players left to some cheers after Thursday's win, a moment that showed their student supporters can appreciate winning basketball even when it comes without free food.
Free throws were critical Thursday, especially two hit by Jon Graham with 24 seconds to play that gave the Nittany Lions a 68-63 lead. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Graham, a 36 percent free throw shooter coming in, was the only player on the floor he would have fouled intentionally. The two points gave Graham, a redshirt freshman, a career-high 10 points.
"Big surprise for them, right?" said Graham. "Going to the line I had a clear head, and I've worked really hard on my free throws. It's just routine and confidence."
Matt Gatens and Roy Devyn Marble missed 3-pointers on the next possession, ending Iowa's (13-13, 5-8) chance at a complete comeback after erasing most of a 15-point deficit from early in the second half.
Free throws also hurt the Hawkeyes they made 18 of 27 while the Lions sank 22 of 28 especially when reserve forward Melsahn Basabe went 0-for-2 from the line down 3 points with 50 seconds to play.
Gatens, a senior who's averaged double digit scoring totals every year at Iowa, atoned for an 0-for-5 first half by scoring 19 second-half points. His vintage Hawkeye barn-door hot streak cooled when he missed a 3-point try with 4 minutes to play down 62-55.
"He got great staggered screens, and did what a senior should do on the road," said Chambers. "He's a big-time player, and he hit some big shots down the stretch."
Tim Frazier kept the Lions (12-15, 4-10) in control a few plays later when he recovered an Iowa steal at midcourt, then drove through four defenders for a layup and 63-59 lead. Frazier finished with a team-high 18 points, while Cammeron Woodyard scored 13. Jermaine Marshall joined Graham with 10 points for his sixth straight double-digit scoring game. It was the 21st time this season Frazier led the team in scoring.
"I think Tim feels that way all game, that the guy's got to get his 20," said Penn State coach Pat Chambers. "It's not easy to do in the Big Ten, but he's amazing."
Chambers also kept Frazier in for as many offensive possessions as possible in the first half after picking up his second foul midway through. The Lions led 20-10 at that point, and led 27-19 when Frazier returned for the first time a few minutes later.
Frazier's return helped spark Penn State to a 38-24 halftime lead, one that Chambers thought could have been more if not for some missed layups.
"He's a handful, and he's going to have the ball all the time," said McCaffery. "The zone limited him a little, but he still made big hoops when we needed a stop. He gets lower than 20 points, you feel good about yourself. Kid's an all-league player, no question."
IOWA (13-13): McCabe 0-1 2-2 2, White 6-11 3-4 16, Oglesby 1-7 1-3 3, Marble 4-10 5-7 13, Gatens 6-13 4-4 21, Olaseni 0-2 0-0 0, Basabe 2-3 3-7 7, Brommer 0-0 0-0 0, May 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-49 18-27 64.
PENN ST. (12-15): Graham 3-3 4-4 10, Travis 1-3 0-2 2, Colella 2-6 4-4 9, Frazier 6-13 6-6 18, Woodyard 4-9 3-4 13, Glover 0-3 3-4 3, Marshall 4-12 0-0 10, Montminy 0-0 0-0 0, Borovnjak 1-4 2-4 4. Totals 21-53 22-28 69.
Halftime-Penn St. 38-24. 3-Point Goals-Iowa 6-18 (Gatens 5-7, White 1-3, May 0-1, Marble 0-2, Oglesby 0-5), Penn St. 5-17 (Marshall 2-5, Woodyard 2-5, Colella 1-5, Glover 0-1, Frazier 0-1). Fouled Out-McCabe. Rebounds-Iowa 34 (White 10), Penn St. 34 (Marshall 7). Assists-Iowa 13 (Marble 6), Penn St. 11 (Frazier, Glover 4). Total Fouls-Iowa 18, Penn St. 22. A-6,794.