What to Expect: Penn State

  • 01/31/2017 7:42 pm in

Indiana returns to Bloomington for a critical Wednesday night matchup against Penn State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Nittany Lions are 12-10 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast on BTN at 6:30 p.m. ET with Dave Revsine and Stephen Bardo on the call:

The phrase “must win game” is often overused. But for Indiana, Wednesday’s game against Penn State is as close to a must win game that you’re going to find at the midway point of the conference season.

Indiana just lost two road games by a combined 43 points and has a road trip to Wisconsin looming on Sunday. A loss to the Nittany Lions in Bloomington would make a sub-.500 conference record very likely and would also put IU’s NCAA tournament chances in peril.

The Hoosiers usually deliver with their backs against the wall under Tom Crean. Will the same scenario play out Wednesday night on Branch McCracken Court?

MEET THE NITTANY LIONS

Indiana controlled the first matchup on Jan. 18 in State College for most of the evening before a late collapse allowed Penn State to tie the game on a pair of Lamar Stevens free throws. James Blackmon Jr. then saved Indiana with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to escape with a 78-75 win.

Since the loss to Indiana, Penn State is 1-2 with blowout losses on the road to Wisconsin and Purdue and a narrow home win over Illinois. Indiana is expected to be without Blackmon Jr. in Wednesday’s rematch.

The star of the first matchup for the Nittany Lions was freshman point guard Tony Carr. The Philadelphia native went for a career-high 24 points against Indiana on Jan. 18, including 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Carr is up to 40 percent on 3s in Big Ten play, but is shooting just 36.9 on 2s.

Shep Garner, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, remains the team’s leading scorer at 12.4 points per game. His efficiency has been an issue in league play (46.6 eFG%), but Garner is a solid ball screen player who is capable of getting into the lane.

Josh Reaves, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, remains a starter while Payton Banks, a 6-foot-6 junior, comes off the bench. Reaves can be disruptive defensively and has a steal percentage that is 10th in the country. With Blackmon Jr. presumably out, expect Reaves to spend plenty of time on Robert Johnson. Banks is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game and is hitting 39.7 percent from distance in league play. He was just 2-of-8 on 3s against the Hoosiers in State College.

Former Hoosier recruiting target, Lamar Stevens, is a high usage player who starts at the four. Stevens is 6-foot-7, 218 pounds and physical. He’s fourth on the team in scoring at 11 points per game and second in rebounding at 5.5 per game. Stevens has really struggled as of late with just 26 points (9-of-42) over his last five games.

Junior Julian Moore is the starter up front but redshirt freshman Mike Watkins is a force when he avoids foul trouble. Unfortunately for Penn State, that hasn’t been the case lately and Watkins has just 21 points over his last four games. Watkins is seventh in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding percentage, third in defensive rebounding percentage and fifth in block percentage.

TEMPO FREE PREVIEW

When the offense stalls like it did against Northwestern, the rest of Indiana’s problems are really magnified. The Hoosiers have one calling card to win games right now: offense. And when it’s not there, as was the case on Sunday, Indiana has nothing to fall back on.

The first meeting between the two teams was won primarily on the strength of IU’s offense. Indiana allowed Penn State to score 1.06 points per possession, which was just one of four times the Nittany Lions have eclipsed a point per possession in league play. But it didn’t matter because Indiana hit 58.3 percent of its 2 and 36 percent of its 3s. That strong shooting performance, coupled with Blackmon Jr.’s late heroics, was enough for Indiana to squeak by for one of its two wins away from Bloomington this season.

But without Blackmon Jr., winning with offense might be a difficult task for the Hoosiers. The good news is that Penn State is the league’s second worst offensive team. But Indiana enters as the Big Ten’s worst defensive team and one that is foul prone, which plays into one of Penn State’s offensive strengths.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The Ken Pomeroy projection is Indiana by nine with an 81 percent chance of victory and Sagarin likes the Hoosiers by 10.5. Those numbers, of course, don’t account for who isn’t playing. And that’s relevant, given that IU just had its worst offensive game of the season without Blackmon Jr.

Monday’s podcast title stated that Indiana’s season is on the brink. When the losses begin to pile up, each game becomes even more important to reverse course and stop the negative momentum. But with Wisconsin and Purdue looming next, Indiana simply can’t afford to lose this game.

It’s likely to be an interesting atmosphere in Assembly Hall with an early start time, a team that fans are beginning to become disinterested with and a lackluster opponent. Will Indiana be able to prevail in a game it has to have?

(Photo credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

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  • SidelineSportsNetwork

    I don’t know what to make of this game. We win… it really means nothing in he big picture of a tourney resume. If we lose it just drops is further out of the tourney.

  • Brad

    OG missed 3 games in December against cupcakes but played in all others until his injury. I can’t count every time a kid has a sore throat as an excuse for a loss. Athletes play sick all the time. Simply, he played in all the losses before he was injured. Same for JBJ and JM. The two games JM missed were both wins. I think you missed my overall point. The team was struggling well before the injuries. So we can’t just say, well hey guys got hurt that’s why we are losing, when everyone played in all the losses prior to the Michigan game.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    happens every time we lose. iu fans don’t quit! haha

  • Sounds like you’ve define the game pretty well.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Good question. For this information to mean something we would have to know how many B1G teams have better or worse recruiting classes. Anyone have data on that?

  • IdahoHoosier

    I agree that the team was struggling even before injuries set in (excluding Hartman). I think what some are missing is the importance of a floor leader for this or any team. Early in the season there were posts and articles here about “who will step up?”, so there was concern from the start about a leadership void. Last season those leaders were easily identifiable. I just haven’t seen it this year. At least some of the blame needs to be directly attributed to the players.

  • Fifer39

    I couldn’t decide whether the signs were embarrassing for the coaches or humiliating for the players. Then I realised they were both.

  • TomJameson

    I think Priller is still not eligible to play. But I’d like to see GG sink about 7 threes.

  • bball at nick’s

    The fact that you’re speaking in the past tense answers your own question. LOL.

  • bball at nick’s

    Disaster is when you don’t expect it. Nothing can be a disaster from here on.

  • JethroTroll

    My sentiments exactly.

  • bball at nick’s

    I reached a peak of bitterness, and now it’s resignation and love for our players. I hope that in the time left of this season several or more of our players can experience the feeling of doing the miraculous. It’s theoretically and spiritually possible. Maybe DG will become an overnight sensation.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I have no delusion that IU will make a Sweet 16 this year, haha. But I posed a “what if?” about how you’d feel had things gone differently. I can’t answer that for you.

  • bball at nick’s

    But they haven’t yet not reached the Elite 8. It’s still possible, so I won’t play God and decide their destiny for them. At this point, they need to imagine the impossible.

  • IdahoHoosier

    No need to be concerned about “playing God” since we have no bearing on how the season plays out. Didn’t peg you for an optimist at any rate.

  • bball at nick’s

    I said “imagine the impossible,” but keep distorting what I say. You should get a banner for distortion.

  • bball at nick’s

    Keep distorting. If you know anything about pcantidote, s/he will be around until our very last game. I actually respect him/her for that.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Those were a lot of words used to not answer a hypothetical question. Way to take the fun out of it.

  • bball at nick’s

    So you want me to say something good about CTC. Okay: if we reach the Elite 8, I’ll drop down and kiss his feet and repent for every single evil thing I ever said about him. How’s that for optimism? LOL.

  • OG obviously wasn’t back at 100% following his ankle injury until right before he hurt his knee. And you can’t simply ignore the impact of losing someone with OG’s ability.

    Again, as I said, I’m not pinning all of the issues on injuries, but you can’t simply discount them either in evaluating the season.

  • I think “expectations” were of _at least_ an Elite 8 appearance. No Sweet 16 bugaboo for sure. That said, I think anything short of a national championship would have been met with the same calls for him to be fired.

  • Yeah, I do have to say you seem to be missing the “purely hypothetical” aspect. You’re supposed to IMAGINE what if. And from past experience, I just know you have a better imagination than that!

    🙂

  • pcantidote

    Sadly, yes he will.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Weird, and doesn’t technically answer the question since no one asked you to say something good about CTC, nor does it count for optimism when sarcastically stated, nor was what you said actually “something good about CTC”. So I’m going to move on as this seems to get more confused for you as we go along!

  • Brad

    Again, my point is not that the injuries haven’t had an impact on the season, it’s that things were not on the right track to begin with. But I know many will continue to believe this season was derailed by injuries and if that is their conclusion, they are missing what’s really going on.

  • Lynn

    What is really going on?

  • HooshWin

    Totally serious question – at what point has there been enough of a sample size to pass judgment on Crean’s performance as HC at IU? It has been 9 years. 9 years. Even throwing away the first three years (which I don’t do, but could reasonably be done), I think six years is more than sufficient to reach a conclusion for fans who follow the team closely. We know what we have in CTC. Then it just becomes a question of whether what he has achieved warrants keeping him around.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Big game tonight boys and girls.

  • WiscoHoosier

    What to expect? A lot of turnovers, bad d, bad subs, bad shot selection and a win by 8 allowing Indiana fans to bury there head in the sand and believe that crean is a good fit at iu. Beating bad teams at home is all he’s good for.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Great question and good points. I’m inclined to include those 3 years as well (I’d give him extra points for rebuilding the reputation and winning ways at IU). I think the sample size needed to evaluate CTC depends on the person/fan. For some it seems to matter what has he done in the last week, for others it is all 9 years. Personally I think he has done good things at IU and got the program back on the right track and deserves credit for it. I also don’t like things about CTC, like in-game decision making, lack of defensive focus, etc. I’ve suggested in other posts that we don’t have to lambaste the guy in order to justify moving in another direction. A new coach, new influence, new style might be just what IU needs. I also believe some fans’ expectations are unrealistic in assuming we are an “elite program” when evidence suggests we haven’t been elite since the early 90’s. So for me, I totally respect and appreciate the coach, love the good kids he’s brought in and recognize some great seasons he’s had, but when the school decides to get a new coach I’ll look forward to what he brings too!

  • Piker

    Probably as many replies as you get for this question. Kinda gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling about are forum fan base.

  • Piker

    Lynn he hates coach you can find brad everywhere trashing CTC. He like to tell hot seat lists that they are I relevant because they did not include coach.

  • BeatDuke

    Newkir was fouled. Go to the monitor and give the ball to pennstate?

  • BeatDuke

    Give the balloon to DD down low every time.

  • IdahoHoosier

    What’s with you and “distorting”? Not the same as misunderstanding. I gave respect. Go cause trouble elsewhere.

  • pcantidote

    I can’t believe you only predicted double overtime and not triple overtime. Geez, you were way off 😉

  • TomJameson

    I know, right? LOL