THE GOOD: BENDING, NOT BREAKING.
Heck of a win tonight in Happy Valley.
Sure, Penn State was a meek 0-5 in the Big Ten heading into this game, but a young Hoosiers team like this isn’t supposed to get conference road wins, no matter whom the opponent is. And unlike we’ve seen in previous road adventures, IU came out of the gate tonight and controlled the game from the onset. They hit shots early — was that Jeremiah Rivers hitting two jumpers? — didn’t look scared, and played with a swagger and confidence we’ve yet to see outside of Assembly Hall in conference play.
It was really just the perfect set of circumstances for the Hoosiers tonight: they came off arguably their biggest win of the year against Minnesota on Sunday, and their next game just happened to be against a team that had yet to win in conference play. They had confidence, and showed it tonight.
But what was even more impressive to me this evening was not the double-digit lead IU was able to mount in the first half thanks to a hot start, it was withstanding Penn State’s run in the second half, especially when you factor in Jeremiah Rivers was basically a non-factor with his foul trouble. (Sidenote: how great is Rivers at that chase-down block on layups? Love that.) When the score got to 40-40 with 13:44 to play, and the momentum shifted in the Nittany Lions’ favor, IU held court.
Watford came down, made a nice move in the post and scored. Penn State came up empty, then Verdell Jones — who along with Devan Dumes were big keys on the offensive end — hit a three and suddenly IU was up 45-40. And though there were a few moments where I thought Penn State might have a shot to get back into it after that, there was never any real OH CRAP IS IU GOING TO WIN THIS OR WHAT moments tonight.
Calm, cool and collected on the road? I can get used to that.
THE BAD AND UGLY: BLANK SLATE.
I’ll leave this one up to you guys. I wasn’t expecting a win on the road this year, especially after how the Hoosiers looked against the Buckeyes and Wolverines earlier Big Ten season. Therefore, no gripes from me tonight.