As has been the case the last eight times Indiana and Penn State have met, it was a close one at University Park. Neither team has won by more than eight points in the last eight meetings. While both teams looked like they might run away with it, in the end the game followed the script, with IU pulling out a nerve wracking win.
Indiana moved to 7-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten with a 64-62 win over Penn State on Tuesday night. In the process, the Hoosiers picked up their first road win in three tries on the young season.
Indiana will return to the friendly confines of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. A major test awaits in the Louisville Cardinals.
The good: Despite falling behind 9-0 after a horrid shooting start, IU had an answer. The bad: Despite taking a 14-point second half lead, the Hoosiers nearly blew it.
The Hoosiers are building resiliency as a team, overcoming deficits in each of their last three wins (UC Davis (14), Northwestern (5) and Penn State (9).
On balance, you take those two runs by each team away and look at it this way — the Hoosiers won on the road in the Big Ten.
Keep in mind — this Penn State team beat a ranked Virginia Tech team last week. The Nittany Lions have flaws, but they play hard and will be a tough out for most other teams in the league. Good Big Ten teams will lose this year at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The bottom line — IU is 2-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since they won it outright in 2016.
The start to the game was simply awful. IU missed 10 of their first 11 shots. That contributed to Indiana shooting well below their season average. They shot 41.8% from the field for the game.
The finish wasn’t too great either, with the Hoosiers turning the ball over down the stretch and nearly giving it away.
Overall, Indiana continues to struggle to find any fluidity in its offense, as reflected by yet another game where turnovers (16) outnumbers assists (12). This is a recipe for disaster against better teams, as we saw against Duke.
Much of the productivity that IU is generating on the offensive end is through individual play rather than through team concepts.
On the good side, what has been a thorn in their side thus far on the season won the game on Tuesday night.
The Hoosiers were 7 for 18 38.9% from long range, and shot a season-best 78.6% from the line hitting 11 of 14 FT’s.
The highlight here was holding Lamar Stevens ten points under his season average. The Nittany Lion forward is an All-Big Ten type of talent, but there were large stretches of the game where you didn’t hear his name. Beyond Stevens, Penn State isn’t a great shooting or scoring team — so keeping him in check was mission critical.
After falling behind 9-0, Indiana found a new level with its defensive energy, and that helped fuel the rally. Nevertheless, for the game, you’d still like to see IU causing more than 11 turnovers against a team with young guards.
You can’t overlook the fact that Penn State missed 15 free throws. A better performance from the stripe would have of course changed the outcome of the game, and by extension changed our impression of the defense.
Whether those fouls that generated the free throws were warranted, or being called equitably, is a conversation for another day.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (B) Hoosier Nation can exhale. Their beloved All-Big Ten co-captain appears to be fine. That became clear when he blocked two shots on one possession in the first half. While productive, it wasn’t a prototypical Morgan game, and his judgment committing fouls has to improve.
- Justin Smith* (B) It is becoming more apparent each game that his inability to go to his left hand around the rim is a major issue. He continues to shy away from contact too. But Smith was much better on the boards with nine, and led the defensive charge on Stevens.
- Romeo Langford* (A-) That first half. Wow. That was an NBA All Star stretch right there. Unstoppable. Penn State understandably decided to make someone else beat them in the second half. You can’t understate how valuable it is to have someone that can generate points on their own like he can. Once again he was strong rebounding the ball as well.
- Rob Phinisee* (A) Phinisee has been good all year for the most part, but this was taking it too the next level. A freshman point guard taking over a Big Ten road game down the stretch? He scored 7 of IU’s final 10 points and had the game winning steal. That’s special. After a bit of a slow start, he appeared to get more aggressive, and it may have won the game.
- Al Durham* (A-) Durham’s year over year improvement is impressive, and you have to start with his perimeter shot. When he is knocking down threes his value is tremendous because he does most other things so well. His defense was solid and he hit some big free throws including front ends of one and ones.
- Evan Fitzner (C+) You just get the sense that he isn’t always comfortable out there. While he had five rebounds, when he isn’t scoring the ball, his overall value isn’t nearly as noticeable.
- De’Ron Davis (C+) He did finally get IU their first points of the game, but with four fouls in five minutes, you can’t stay on the floor. Davis tries to play defense like he’s an elite athlete rather than just focusing on good positioning.
- Zach McRoberts (C+) We’re starting to worry that the McRoberts of last year isn’t going to make a return. Is his back still bothering him? Something seems to be missing here.
- Devonte Green (B-) Okay, we’ll admit it. At one point in the first half we were thinking Green was going to take over as the starting point guard. In addition to hitting two big threes to get IU back in it, Green did underrated things like play with great defensive energy, block out, and make great passes under control. Then in the 2nd half his flurry of turnovers fueled the Penn State run and we are back where we started. The best news here is that Green looks fully healthy and he has his moxie back.
- Clifton Moore (B+) What a pleasant surprise. Moore made several high impact plays in the first half including rebounds, a block and a put back and-one. It wasn’t perfect, as there were lapses on defense, and he couldn’t handle a great pass from Green late in the first half. But the story here is that Moore, a guy a lot of people counted out, showed that he can contribute — and he did it in front of friends and family in his home state.
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