What to Expect: Penn State

  • 02/05/2016 10:47 am in

Indiana is back on the road this weekend for a Saturday night primetime matchup with Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions are 11-12 overall and 2-8 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast on BTN at 8 p.m. ET with Josh Lewin and Shon Morris on the call:

Tuesday’s win at Michigan was significant for Indiana for many reasons. First, it kept the Hoosiers on pace with Iowa at the top of the Big Ten standings. Both teams are 9-1 with a potential showdown looming next week at Assembly Hall for first place in the conference.

It was also a top 50 RPI road win, which provided a major boost to IU’s NCAA tournament resume. But perhaps most importantly, it was a win that should give Indiana even more confidence. The Hoosiers had three conference road wins going into Tuesday, but winning at Rutgers, Nebraska and Minnesota isn’t the same as winning at Michigan. Indiana went on the road against a solid opponent and won going away.

But now is not the time for Indiana to believe the hype or the press clippings. Since the 5-3 start, the Hoosiers have played like a group with something to prove and that trend must continue on Saturday in State College. Penn State, which has lost six of its last seven games, will be hungry for a win and Indiana must avoid looking ahead to the Iowa game on Thursday in Assembly Hall.

MEET THE NITTANY LIONS (all stats are now conference only unless otherwise noted)

Penn State enters Saturday’s matchup with the Big Ten’s 12th best offense, so it is no surprise that its primary scorers struggle with efficiency. The Nittany Lions are led offensively by senior forward Brandon Taylor and sophomore guard Shep Garner, who has battled an ankle injury recently.

The 6-foot-6 Taylor is using the eighth most possessions of any Big Ten player in conference games and averages team-highs of 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. Taylor has been finishing relatively well in the paint and in the midrange, but is just 9-of-36 on 3s over Penn State’s last 10 games. As his Shot Analytics chart below shows, Taylor is most effective in the paint and just outside of it in the midrange:

brandontaylor

Given his success against Zak Irvin in Ann Arbor and how he guarded Nigel Hayes in Bloomington, it would make sense to see OG Anunoby spend plenty of time on Taylor.

The 6-foot-1 Garner is a strong guard who has really struggled with his shooting this season. His 23.3 percent assist rate ranks 11th in the conference, but Garner (12.6 ppg) is making just 41.2 percent of his 2s and 27 percent of his 3s in conference play.

Freshman guard Josh Reaves, who started the first four league games, has been out for several weeks with mono and it’s uncertain when he’ll be able to return. Wing Payton Banks, who is 6-foot-6, is hitting just 39.2 percent of his 2s and 28.6 percent of his 3s in Big Ten games and is third on the team in scoring at 8.6 points per game.

Senior guard Devin Foster has started the last three games and is making 40 percent of his 3s over 10 Big Ten games. Freshman forward Deividas Zemgulis is logging close to 20 minutes per game and is making 50 percent of his 2s in league play on limited attempts. Zemgulis played 26 minutes in Wednesday’s loss at Iowa and scored six points.

The post minutes are primarily occupied by Jordan Dickerson, Donovan Jack and Julian Moore. The 7-foot-1 Dickerson is a strong shot blocker (7.1 block percentage), but is an extremely low usage offensive player who is also foul prone. Dickerson has yet to score in double figures this season and is averaging 6.8 fouls called per 40 minutes.

The 6-foot-9 Jack can step out and hit the occasional 3, but isn’t much of an offensive threat. Moore has started the last five games and is the team’s best defensive rebounder (19.3 DR%). He can also block shots (4.3 block percentage), but is shooting just 44.4 percent on 2s.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

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Penn State has played the toughest Big Ten schedule so far with losses to Michigan (twice), Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. Still, there’s not a lot of encouraging things to draw from their profile.

The Nittany Lions are the worst shooting team in the conference with an effective field goal percentage of 44.8. They’re hitting a putrid 26.4 percent of their 3s in Big Ten play.

psubigtenoffense

The primary strength of Penn State offensively is its ability to get to the foul line. The Nittany Lions are seventh in the league at getting to the line (35 percent free throw rate). Offensive rebounding is another area where this group has struggled as it has grabbed just 26.1 percent of its missed shots in conference play. Penn State has also been turnover prone (17.4 TO%) against Big Ten opponents.

Defensively, Penn State has the league’s 12th best defense and is allowing opponents to rebound over 31 percent of its missed shots. That’s not a recipe for slowing down Indiana, which is one of the most dangerous offensive rebounding teams in the country. The Nittany Lions are also very foul prone as Big Ten opponents are getting to the line frequently for a free throw rate over 40 percent.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

Pomeroy has Indiana as an eight-point favorite with a 78 percent chance the Hoosiers leave State College with a victory. Sagarin likes the Hoosiers by 10.5 when adjusted for home court advantage. Indiana also opened as an 8-point favorite in Vegas.

Tom Crean is 4-1 at Penn State as IU’s coach with the lone setback coming by three in his first season in Bloomington when the Hoosiers finished 6-25. But this is not a game that Indiana can just expect to show up and win easily. Pat Chambers always has his teams playing hard and physical. With four straight losses, the Nittany Lions will be hungry for a win.

From the IU perspective, there are plenty of matchups to like. Very few teams have an answer for Yogi Ferrell and Penn State is no exception. Penn State has struggled to guard the 3-point line and Indiana has plenty of shooters to throw on the perimeter. If IU takes care of the ball and spreads it around, offense shouldn’t be a problem.

In a conference title race, every game is important. At 9-1, Indiana has to take care of business to remain a viable contender in the Big Ten race, especially against a team that has struggled as much as Penn State. The Hoosiers proved on Tuesday that they could put together a strong performance away from Assembly Hall. They’ll need another one Saturday to continue the momentum heading into next week when Iowa comes to Bloomington followed by a trip to East Lansing.

(Photo credit: Mark Selders/Penn State)

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  • marcusgresham

    When I consider the idea of starting OG, it does make me think, “well, if nothing else the refs won’t whistle Hartman in the first 45 seconds of the game.”

  • marcusgresham

    He’s the only scholarship guard on the bench. Somebody has to spell Yogi & Rob.

  • marcusgresham

    Eh, that’s not the committee that’s people who get paid to guess.
    No one thought IU would get a 10-seed last year if you listened to those same people.

  • VAHoosier

    But UNLV is a top-15 defense. They just can’t score (except against our terrible early season defense).

  • Arch Puddington

    Well, basketball is about both offense and defense. And as we have seen for ourselves each of the last two years, being good at one but lousy at the other adds up to a lousy team. In UNLV’s case, they have the 229th ranked offense, so despite their good defense, they have an average scoring differential of -7 points per 100 possessions. That’s bad enough to get them ranked 91st by Kenpom, and bad enough to get their coach fired mid-season.

    So while there could be worse losses, it’s still a bad loss. I expect if we played them now we would win handily. But we played them in November and lost. So we’ll just have to hope for a few quality wins in the next month to re-establish ourselves as a top team.

  • VAHoosier

    I guess we disagree on the definition of bad loss. I just don’t think losing to a top-100 team on a neutral floor is a “bad” loss.

  • BL

    Marcus i’ve pondered the same. Fact is, NZ doesn’t really play guard as we think of it. Never brings the ball up the floor and barely dribbles within the offense. Definitely doesn’t back up YF. I think we’d be better off having CH take his spot as a reserve; better all around player including ball handling and frankly, shooting it better this year. That would allow us to use JM as the primary back up for OG and TW which allows us to maintain an athletic front line. Naturally, CH could also play some 3. I would limit NZ to 7-10 minutes a game solely when we need a zone buster or a jolt of energy offensively.

  • bleeding crimson

    I agree with the front line topic. Let’s stay bigger and more athletic. Not that NZ is a bad Def’r but he is not as long and slower. He does seem to play the 3 for shoting purpose only and your not sure when he’s going to hit….his fingers are still taped together on his shoting hand.

  • bleeding crimson

    I agree but I do leave in S. Ind…right in the thick of L’ville media. It is always pUKe and L’ville and then maybe an after-thought of IU BB. This broke as I was typing my first comment on the radio is why and when I made the comment. We do talk BB on this site and a team that we may would have faced in the NCAA.

  • Arch Puddington

    I guess we do. I think that any loss to a non-tournament team is a bad loss, although of course some are worse than others. UNLV is so bad that they fired their coach, but they do have some talent, and they have won some games. St. Johns, on the other hand, is horrible, and losing to them is obviously a much bigger blemish.

    But if I was assessing the Hoosiers right now based not on their potential, but strictly on their resume, the UNLV loss would count against them, particularly since their best win thus far is over #34. Now, if they do well down the stretch, which to me would mean even 4 more wins the rest of the way given the tough competition ahead, the UNLV loss would look like an early season issue that has been put to bed. But if they stumble and don’t show the ability to win against someone higher than #34 (currently our best win), then I am confident the selection committee will see the UNLV loss as meaningful.

    One thing I am sure we agree on: take care of business the rest of the way, and we will earn a good seed despite the early seasons issues.

  • I guess in a way it is comforting, but also a little unsettling, that we basically control our destiny in the conference, in our two games against Iowa. But we would have to win both games in all likelihood. Also assuming we don’t drop the easier games. I’ve expected them to lose in the proverbial bad loss, which really would end their chances at the title. While it’s unlikely, I still think they have a decent shot at winning every remaining game.

  • ha ha, oh I didn’t forget that our still-growing recruit is on the way. 6-10 or more now? Ok, I’ll take it.

  • Koko

    I personally don’t care what is going on at Louisville…..it is what it is.
    I do wonder if the fellow that left IU to be an assistant at Louisville wishes
    he were back in IU.

  • Koko

    Great comment….”we basically control our destiny in the conference”. Just play with the toughness and grit we have displayed since Duke….EVERY GAME….from here on out and as you said….they will have a decent shot at winning every remaining game. I know we have brain farts but I see something in this team I haven’t seen for quite a while. Whether they win by 20+ or by a point, even when they play bad they still tough it out and make it go right. Even in the Wisky game….one basket our way and we win in regulation….in spite of the arm curls. Continued good coaching and tough hard nosed play and we should be looking pretty good after game 18.

  • Kevin

    Feels like a trap game – but a commitment to steadfast D will alleviate that.
    Well, that, and taking care of the ball!
    I suspect PSU will play hard and make it difficult, but this group of Hoosiers will (hopefully) continue to develop toughness when dealing with adversity and find a way to win by 6 or 7.
    Hopeful that TB has a big game against their bigs.
    Can’t wait to see how OG contributes!

  • ‘Worry wart’, now that’s a concept I hadn’t heard in a while.. That kinda fits me as well…lol..

  • And if DeRon is really 6′ 11″.. Next year could be an exceptional one, especially if TB returns for one more year…

  • I agree with what you’re saying. We aren’t getting much respect. But even on the BTN the guys seem to be grudgingly mentioning us in the 4th or 5th place in the conference.. We get no love at all.

  • SilentBob

    Perhaps you’re right. I’m not a fan of how Pititno has gone about this either way. I wouldn’t say I was ever a fan of his but I at least respected the man. And you think he wouldn’t have any trouble at all landing recruits on reputation alone. On that note I don’t think he fully knew what was going on, but I still feel he must of had some small inclination of possible foul play but possibly chose to ignore it.

    Either way I’m not a detective so it’s all just speculation. All I hope for is justice like you

  • Exactly. That’s a big-time front court, along with this year’s other two freshmen. Lots of size. And I think TB showed himself not ready to jump to the pros tonight. He needs another year. He’ll be back.

    Maybe that’s the good news after this bad loss?