No. 21 Penn State beats No. 23 Iowa at packed Palestra

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USA Today Images/Bill Streicher

No. 21 Penn State beats No. 23 Iowa at packed Palestra

BOX SCORE

Izaiah Brockington scored 23 points to lead No. 21 Penn State to its fifth straight win, 89-86 over No. 23 Iowa on Saturday at the Palestra.

Luka Garza scored 34 points for the Hawkeyes (10-4, 1-2 Big Ten), but he missed three crucial free throws down the stretch that helped the Nittany Lions win in front of a raucous home crowd on Philly's most famous court. Garza, who scored 44 points last month at Michigan, scored 12 straight points in one stretch in the first half but missed two foul shots with 3:21 left in the game and Iowa clinging to a two-point lead.

Curtis Jones put Penn State in front with a 3-pointer that rocked the building. Garza went 1 of 2 from the line to even the score at 79-all, but Mike Watkins delivered for PSU with a go-ahead dunk. Penn State forced a turnover and Lamar Stevens sealed it with a late layup.

Stevens and Myreon Jones each scored 16 points for the Nittany Lions (12-2, 2-1).

Penn State coach Pat Chambers might finally have a team he can take to the NCAA Tournament in his ninth season.

Penn State might want to petition to play all its Big Ten games at the Palestra. The Nittany Lions got the best of Iowa and coach Fran McCaffery, a former Penn standout who played home games at the Palestra.

Penn State barely averaged an announced attendance of 10,000 fans last season at its on-campus arena, the Bryce Jordan Center. But 193 miles down the road at the Palestra, the heart of Philly hoops, the steamy gym was packed. Tickets on the secondary market were going for $150 a seat in the corners - or, "Corners! as its known when the Palestra is sold out -- and fans arrived early to walk the concourse that serves as much as a hall of fame as it does a stop for a $4 hot dog.

Walk past the pictures of Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain in their high school uniforms, and there's a photo of McCaffery in his No. 23 Penn jersey. The caption read, "Fran McCafferty, 1979-82, was integral in three Ivy League Championship titles for the Quakers." McCaffery walked in the same concourse doors Saturday as fans and fist-bumped a row of black-and-gold wearing supporters. Yes, even an Ivy League school can't ace spelling -- there's no T in McCaffery -- and McCaffery left with another unwanted letter: an L.

Penn State alumni roared "We Are!" from the opening tip and the Palestra decibel meter hit 11 when the Nittany Lions seemed poised to break the game open. Seth Lundy and Myles Dread hit 3s, Stevens turned a steal into a fast-break layup and another Penn State steal ended with a Stevens dunk and a 35-27 lead. Iowa collected itself and Dread's jumper to end the half gave the Hawkeyes a 39-38 lead.

Stevens sparked the idea of PSU making a return trip to Palestra. A graduate of Philadelphia's Roman Catholic High School, Stevens badgered Chambers about playing a game at the Palestra before his career ended. He surely could not have imagined a showdown between two nationally ranked teams going basket-for-basket in front of a packed house once Iowa agreed to play in Philly.

Big picture

Iowa: The Hawkeyes can only hope this kind of loss won't cost them an NCAA Tournament bid.

Penn State: Penn State played its first game as a ranked team against a ranked team for the first time since 1996. Chambers found little success over his first eight seasons, and has failed to lead the program to the NCAA Tournament. But powered by a deep, veteran roster, the Nittany Lions cracked the Top 25 this season for the first time since March 1996.

Up next

Iowa plays Tuesday at Nebraska.

Penn State plays Tuesday at Rutgers.

Former Penn State, NFL DT Brandon Noble takes his turn to help amid coronavirus outbreak

Former Penn State, NFL DT Brandon Noble takes his turn to help amid coronavirus outbreak

Former Penn State and NFL defensive tackle Brandon Noble is taking the lessons he learned during his football career and applying them to the fight against the coronavirus. Noble, who owns the Bright Spot Cafe in Exton, Pennsylvania, along with his partners Tommy and Shannon Brower, is delivering meals to healthcare workers at various hospitals.

The idea originated from a phone call and took on a life of its own.

"A friend of Tommy called and asked if we could put together a lunch for the nurses at Paoli Hospital," Noble said in an interview Monday with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark. "This guy had a friend who worked there and he just wanted to send them a meal. So we did it, we took it down there and we saw the appreciation from the staff at the hospital that they had a hot meal individually packaged and rolled up to the door for them.

"You can just see it in their eyes because everyone is obviously wearing masks now. It kind of snowballed from there, people are calling us, reaching out to us and they're asking to buy meals for different hospitals and wings of different departments. It's really cool."

Noble and his partners have delivered about 2,000 meals over the last two weeks. He's urging people to get involved and donate money and meals by visiting his restaurant's website — brightspotexton.com. The restaurant is matching all donations in an effort to support and feed as many healthcare workers as possible.

"Playing football for as long as I did, I've had plenty of surgeries, I've had the health issues, I've been in the hospital," Noble said. "I understand how important these people are and right now they're under a lot of stress. There's a lot going on, they're laying it on the line every day for the rest of us. So going in and helping them out, absolutely it feels good. One thing about this country, the people here, we take care of each other."

Noble pointed to one health scare in particular from his playing career that greatly impacted his view of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. 

"I was one of the first guys in the NFL to get MRSA back in 2004," Noble said. "I had a routine operation and I woke up a few days later and I had this really bad hot spot in my knee and it kind of escalated from there. I ended up being unconscious in my living room during my daughter's 2nd birthday party. My mother-in-law is a nurse and she told my wife to take me to the hospital. They rolled me into the emergency room and the doctors told us if we had waited another 12 hours I would have lost my leg and I might have died.

"I spent 10 days in the hospital getting taken care of. I was a professional athlete, a football player, 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds and I couldn't walk without help. Those people kept me alive. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and what they do. They're taking care of people who are scared, who are hurt, who are in a bit of an unknown situation right now."

Noble lives in Chester Springs and is the defensive coordinator at Downingtown East High School. He's teaching his players the same lessons about football he learned long ago, lessons that led him to take action during these uncertain times. 

"Football is one of those great places where there are people from all over, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, all sorts of family backgrounds, different geographic locations," Noble said. "You're all thrown into this room and you're told that you're going to win or lose depending on the guy next to you. How can you help that guy? How can you be there when it's your turn to help? 

"That's what football is all about. It's a great team sport, the best team sport. It teaches those of us who play it and coach it that's it all about the guy next to you. If you love the guy next to you and he loves you, you're going forward and great things will happen." 

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No. 9 Penn State can't come all the way back to beat No. 2 Ohio State

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USA Today Images/Greg Bartram

No. 9 Penn State can't come all the way back to beat No. 2 Ohio State

BOX SCORE 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After cruising through the first 10 games against teams that didn’t put up much a fight, No. 2 Ohio State found itself in a slugfest with No. 9 Penn State.

The Buckeyes responded, winning with defense.

Justin Hillard intercepted Penn State backup Will Levis’ pass and the Buckeyes stopped the Nittany Lions on fourth down on two late drives to seal a 28-17 victory and lock up the Big Ten East title.

J.K. Dobbins rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and Justin Fields threw for 188 yards and two scores for Ohio State (10-0, 8-0).

Ohio State held on after Penn State (9-2, 7-2) took advantage of two second-half turnovers to climb back in the game after trailing 21-0. This was a far different scenario for Ohio State, which hadn’t yet had to play hard into the second half.

“We talked about going into a big heavyweight match, and you have to take shots,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “One of the things about playing in a game like this is you have to be willing to take punches and you have to not flinch when it happens. That was a great example. That was the first time we really were taking shots there.”

The Buckeyes were clinging to a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter when Fields threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave to create some breathing room.

Ohio State, with Chase Young back from a two-game suspension, then got the interception from Hillard before shutting down two late Penn State drives on fourth down, aided by deafening crowd noise. The last drive included back-to-back sacks of backup quarterback Will Levis by Young and linebacker Baron Browning.

Fields fights back

Fields fumbled away the ball twice, once as he was crossing the goal line for what would have been a touchdown. But he got critical yards on the ground, rushing for 68 yards on 21 carries and threw beautiful second half touchdown passes to K.J. Hill and Olave.

And he got knocked around plenty, and at one point late in the game was slow to get up after being sacked but stayed in the game.

“He’s a warrior, I’m telling you,” Day said. “He’s got the heart of a lion.”

Chase returns

Young was back in action after sitting out two games as a penalty for breaking the rules by accepting a personal loan. And he was a force, picking up nine tackles, including three sacks. He has 16 1/2 for the season, the most ever by a Buckeye.

Clifford out

Freshman QB Levis finished up Penn State’s first scoring drive in the third quarter -- capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Journey Brown -- after Sean Clifford left the game with an injury. Coach James Franklin said Clifford was available to come back in but wasn’t 100% so he stayed with Levis, who scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.

“I was a little nervous the first couple plays, but then it all went away, and I started having fun and doing my thing,” Levis said.

Coincidentally, Levis signed with Penn State after Fields withdrew his commitment to Franklin and chose Georgia in 2018. Fields transferred to Ohio State in January.

The takeaway

Penn State: Statistically, the Nittany Lions were beaten soundly but managed to hang around until late. Journey Brown ran the ball 11 times for 64 yards.

“No one flinched,” Penn State safety Garrett Taylor said. “We came out and fought hard.”

Ohio State: The Buckeyes outgained the Nittany Lions 417-227 but were stricken by uncharacteristic turnovers. Now it’s on to Ann Arbor for the rivalry game against No. 12 Michigan.

“It’s good to have a full game under your belt, especially going into next week,” linebacker Pete Werner said.

Poll implications

Buckeyes should stay put. Nittany Lions could drop but not much after playing Ohio State tough.

Up next

Penn State: Hosts Rutgers next Saturday in season finale.

Ohio State: Winds up the regular season next Saturday with rivalry game against Michigan.