I. When Indiana is making 3-pointers like it did on Wednesday night, few teams in the country, if any, are beating the Hoosiers. Especially at Assembly Hall. After connecting on 5-of-12 attempts from distance in the first half, Indiana came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. The Hoosiers hit their first six 3-point attempts and hit eight in a row in total if you go back to the first half.
The perimeter barrage came from a variety of sources. Will Sheehey was back in mid-season form. The junior from Stuart, Fla., led IU with eight first-half points. And after his first few looks went in, Sheehey looked like the guy capable of carrying this team in stretches with his scoring and energy off the bench.
Yogi Ferrell knocked in a few in what was perhaps his best shooting display this season. He finished with a career-high 15 points. Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls were on target, too. Oladipo’s improved perimeter game continues to blossom and he’s now shooting 55.1 percent on threes this season. He finished with a game-high 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
II. The defense was another storyline worth noting. Penn State, fresh off of totals of 71 in a loss to Michigan State and 64 in a loss to Nebraska, could only muster up 49 points against a defense that was ranked in the top 20 nationally in terms of efficiency entering the game. As the Big Ten schedule moves along and the Hoosiers enter a brutal stretch of games in February, defense is going to have to be the calling card, particularly on the road.
In total, the Nittany Lions shot 17-of-50 from the field and Indiana never really allowed them to establish any flow or momentum. After an 8-of-27 first-half shooting performance by Penn State, the Hoosiers kept the intensity dialed up for the second half and finished the game strong, which hasn’t always been the case in recent games. With a major battle looming Sunday at Assembly Hall with the Spartans, it was important for Indiana to put together a solid 40 minutes. For the most part, that happened.
Indiana returns to Assembly Hall tonight following a 67-59 win at Northwestern on Sunday for its second meeting with Penn State. The Nittany Lions are the lone remaining winless team in Big Ten play and are 4-20 over their last 24 conference games. Indiana won the first meeting 74-51 in State College on Jan. 7.
The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network at 7 p.m. with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call.
Not much has changed for Pat Chambers and Penn State since his team met Indiana earlier this month at Bryce Jordan Arena. The Nittany Lions haven’t won a game since Duquesne on Dec. 29 and besides Saturday’s 68-64 loss at home to Nebraska, they haven’t played a league opponent closer than nine points. The results are not unexpected given the strength of this year’s Big Ten and what Chambers inherited from Ed DeChellis.
WHAT WE LEARNED IN THE FIRST MEETING
Unlike the Big Ten opener in Iowa City, Indiana took immediate control of their second conference road game. Penn State led 2-0 and the Hoosiers promptly reeled off a 13-0 run and were never really challenged the rest of the way. One of the primary mismatches Indiana exploited was using Christian Watford against Jon Graham and Brandon Taylor, both of whom are significantly less experienced than IU’s senior forward. Watford finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds, but a majority of his damage (13 points, five rebounds) came in the first half.
Indiana also used the 3-point line effectively as five different players connected from distance. Those looks are likely to be available once again as Penn State has offered little in terms of defense thus far in six conference games (1.07 points per possession allowed).
In terms of what Penn State did well in the first meeting: The Nittany Lions posted an offensive rebounding percentage of 39.5, which at the time was the second highest mark allowed by Indiana this season. Penn State also forced the Hoosiers into 17 turnovers, but so many were unforced, it’s probably not a figure that IU will duplicate.
WHO’S HOT FOR PENN STATE
With 47 points over his last two games, Penn State junior Jermaine Marshall (pictured) is a critical matchup for Indiana.
The junior scored just 11 points in IU’s win on Jan. 7, but Marshall had 29 points and 10 rebounds in a competitive loss to Michigan State on Jan. 16 and backed it up with 18 in a loss to Nebraska.
“You have to account for him. He’s going to consistently make jump shots, especially if he’s open,” assistant coach Kenny Johnson said Tuesday. “In that particular game [against Michigan State], he came out with an aggressive mentality and carried it throughout the game.”
Standings are here. (Note: Everyone who made a pick the first game was added to the spreadsheet even if they didn’t get the pick correct. After that game, only new people that got a correct pick were added to the spreadsheet. As a result, some people might not see their names on the spreadsheet if they didn’t pick the first game and haven’t gotten any correct picks in the following games. If a scoring error is identified, please email us at email@example.com. Comments addressing scoring in this thread will not be addressed.)
Pool for Penn State: All players, with the exception of Cody Zeller, are eligible to be picked.
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March Watch: A No. 2 seed for Indiana?
Selection Sunday is a little more than seven weeks away and Indiana is nearly one-third of the way through the Big Ten slate, so it’s time for another edition of March Watch, a look at where the Hoosiers stand in terms of the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana’s overall resume is quite strong with a 16-2 record and 4-1 mark in the Big Ten, the nation’s toughest conference. The surprising home loss to Wisconsin probably knocked them down two to three spots on Joe Lunardi’s s-curve. As of Monday morning, the ESPN bracketologist has IU at No. 7 on his s-curve. In our last update, IU was No. 6 with Lunardi.
Nitty Gritty Profile
·Record: 16-2 (4-1 Big Ten) ·RPI: 14 ·SOS: 21 ·Home Record: 11-1 ·Away Record: 3-0 · Neutral Court Record: 2-1 ·vs. RPI Top 50: 3-1 ·vs. RPI Top 51-100: 3-1
As the Big Ten season continues to move along, Indiana’s tournament profile should continue to gain strength in a couple of key areas. In our update 13 days ago, IU’s strength of schedule was 43. It’s now up to 21 and on the rise with a backloaded conference schedule. The RPI number is also up two spots.
Still, when looking at resumes for seeding purposes at this point in time, it’s impossible to ignore that 10 of IU’s wins are over teams outside of the RPI top 100.
One of the main storylines to emerge from Indiana’s victory over the Wildcats on Sunday was its handling of Northwestern’s 1-3-1 defense it sprung on the Hoosiers midway through the second half.
Indiana had its issues with it on some possessions. And with the Wildcats hitting on the other end, it allowed them to make things interesting. But there was also enough success from the Hoosiers against it that they kept the lead and won the game.
A look at Indiana’s successes and failures in the latest edition of Film Session:
This is the second possession the Wildcats go to the 1-3-1. We see Christian Watford being double-teamed as Yogi Ferrell calls for the ball:
Ferrell receives the ball and is way out beyond the arc:
As the trap comes his way, he has a few options: 1) Jordan Hulls on the opposite side of the court 2) Watford in the middle 3) Will Sheehey down in the right corner:
We’re a day late this week because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, but ITH’s Big Ten Power Rankings are back for the third week. These always get harder and harder to come up with as we get deeper into the conference season, but as always, I did my best. Here is this week’s edition.
12. Penn State (8-10, 0-6) (LAST WEEK: 12) … You can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for the Nittany Lions. They’ve hung tough of late — they lost to Michigan State by nine points and Nebraska by four points this week — but they haven’t been able to secure a Big Ten win without star guard Tim Frazier. And a win’s not coming this week either with Indiana and Ohio State next on the schedule.
11. Nebraska (10-9, 1-5) (LAST WEEK: 11) … Nebraska hasn’t had a ton of success since joining the Big Ten, but it finally earned a win at Penn State on Saturday. Now, the Cornhuskers have very winnable home games against Illinois and Northwestern.
10. Illinois (14-5, 1-4) (LAST WEEK: 8) … Like usual, the Fighting Illini are falling down these rankings by the week. They looked so good in the non-conference season after winning the Maui Invitational and at Gonzaga, but they have lost some head scratchers, including a 14-point home loss to Northwestern on Thursday.
9. Northwestern (11-8, 2-4) (LAST WEEK: 10) … A small jump for the Wildcats this week after a nice road win at Illinois. They also looked fairly good in the second half against Indiana on Sunday, but the Hoosiers have struggled late in games in several of their recent contests. But Reggie Hearn has proven he’s a capable player, and Northwestern should win a few more conference games.
8. Purdue (10-8, 3-2) (LAST WEEK: 7) … The Boilermakers had a good week. They won at Nebraska and throttled West Virginia of the Big 12, but they dropped a spot in the power rankings. Why? Well, it’s not so much about what they didn’t do as it is about what Iowa did. At this point, I feel the Hawkeyes are a better team.
7. Iowa (13-5, 2-3) (LAST WEEK: 9) … It took them a few games, but it looks like the Hawkeyes are getting comfortable in conference play. After losing three straight games to start the Big Ten season, Iowa has rattled off two straight, including an impressive 70-66 home win against Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes now have to go on the road for two straight against Ohio State and Purdue.
Following Tuesday’s surprising loss to Wisconsin, Indiana bounced back on Sunday afternoon with a 67-59 win over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The win moved Indiana, now 4-1 in the conference, into a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with the Badgers and Michigan.
· Cody Zeller is picking up the pace in Big Ten play: It’s not that Zeller wasn’t solid in the non-conference schedule — he was — but as IU’s bench has struggled to find its groove in league play, IU’s sophomore center is upping his production. In five Big Ten games, Zeller is averaging 19.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and is shooting 77 percent from the foul line. Still, the uptick in his numbers isn’t registering much, if at all, with Zeller. “I could care less,” Zeller told reporters yesterday. “A win’s a win.” With the Big Ten schedule backloaded with tough games, Indiana needs Zeller to continue to getting to the line (39 free throw attempts in five league games) and working his post game to open up perimeter opportunities.
· Indiana is winning on the road: The competition hasn’t been the stiffest, but the Hoosiers now own road wins over Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern. For some perspective on this, you can look at IU’s final Big Ten road record a season ago: 3-6. And we don’t even need to get into the record away from Assembly Hall the three years prior to that. The overriding point is that even though the wins haven’t been as dominant as some expected, these early wins should help build confidence heading into the remaining road schedule, which includes Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan.
· The bench continues to struggle: Indiana’s bench again provided little in terms of offensive production. The group totaled just six points (all by Will Sheehey) and the Hoosiers currently lack an adequate and trusted backup when Zeller goes to the bench. One encouraging bit of news is that Derek Elston did play, albeit briefly, after practicing for the first time on Friday. Tom Crean said on Monday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference that he expects Elston and Maurice Creek to be available at some point this week and even noted that Creek could have played yesterday, but said that it wasn’t “the time nor place” to put him in the game. As the Big Ten season moves along, the Hoosiers must be able to count on a couple of their bench guys because situations will arise that will require them to do so.