What to Expect: Penn State

  • 01/09/2014 4:19 pm in

Indiana gets a third opportunity to pick up its first conference win on Saturday in State College as the Hoosiers will take on Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 9-7 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast at 12 p.m. on BTN and on the IU radio network (Sirius 119, XM 198):

It’s hard to categorize any game in January as a must-win, but for Indiana, Saturday’s trip to Penn State is a game the Hoosiers really need to have. After an 0-2 start, Indiana is faced with a road trip to pick up a conference win before returning home to Assembly Hall to face one of the nation’s best teams in Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions have already dropped four home games: Bucknell, Princeton, Michigan State and most recently, Minnesota on Wednesday night. The Bryce Jordan Center offers little from an atmosphere perspective and Indiana has won three straight in the building dating back to Jan. 10, 2010.

The reality of life in the Big Ten for a young team is already beginning to set in for Indiana and Saturday is no exception as Penn State, despite its 0-3 start, led both Michigan State and Minnesota by double figures at home.


Penn State again boasts one of the better backcourts in the conference with senior Tim Frazier, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, and junior D.J. Newbill.

Frazier leads the Nittany Lions in both scoring (17.1 ppg) and assists (6.9 apg) and while he’s never been a model of efficiency, he’s a lot better as a senior in that regard than he’s ever been before. Frazier’s effective field goal percentage is 50.8 and his assist rate is 39.8, which ranks 10th nationally.

Newbill is the team’s second leading scorer (16.9 ppg) and his effective field goal percentage of 55.5 is up over 13 percent from where he finished last season. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Frazier for his ability to be an effective facilitator, but Newbill is also hitting close to 42 percent of his 3-pointers. Freshman guard Geno Thorpe, senior Allen Roberts and junior John Johnson also figure into the backcourt rotation off the bench. Johnson just became eligible for the second semester after transferring from Pittsburgh. He’s averaging 11 points in four games.

Up front, Penn State has some familiar faces in junior Ross Travis, sophomore Brandon Taylor and sophomore Donovan Jack. Travis is third on the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game and despite being undersized at 6-foot-6, is the team’s top rebounder. Taylor is also a bit undersized at 6-foot-7 but finishes relatively well around the rim (52.2 percent on 2s) and is solid on the defensive glass (17.9 DR%). Jack, who was sidelined for the final two months of his freshman season after suffering a stress fracture, is 6-foot-9 but can shoot from the perimeter. He’s hit 13 of his 39 attempts from behind the 3-point line.



On the surface, Indiana matches up pretty well in a couple of key areas with Penn State. First, the Nittany Lions don’t cause many turnovers and while that hasn’t always mattered for Indiana, it’s obviously more conducive to begin cutting down on some of the mistakes against a team that doesn’t cause many. Conversely, Penn State takes great care of the ball (14.9 TO%) which could loom large in a close game where possessions are at a premium.

Penn State is also a weak offensive rebounding team, so Indiana must limit second chance opportunities for the Nittany Lions while hitting the offensive boards hard. The free throw line also looms large as the Hoosiers are at their best when getting to the line and Penn State hasn’t done a great job of keeping opponents off the stripe.


Indiana’s path to a .500 record in the Big Ten has to be build on the foundation of at least a 5-1 record against Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern, so this game looms large in that regard. The Hoosiers were actually dealt a favorable schedule by avoiding trips to Iowa and Ohio State, so capitalizing on getting six games against what appears to be the league’s bottom three is a must. Even though the Hoosiers were very good on the road in conference play last season, we’re only two years removed from a 3-6 league record away from Assembly Hall and that was a team that finished 27-9 overall and went to the Sweet 16.

While it would appear that getting the ball inside to Noah Vonleh could be a big part of the game plan, it’s also worth noting that Penn State protects the rim very well (45th nationally in block percentage) and Indiana is having 12.1 percent of its shots blocked, which ranks 291st nationally. Still, this is a game where Vonleh should be able to exploit some undersized defenders routinely and at the least, get to the line like he did in Champaign.

Frazier and Newbill are the two key matchups to watch defensively, as both players are capable of scoring 25 and making it a long night for IU’s backcourt. The KenPom projection has Penn State winning narrowly, 76-75, with a 53 win percentage chance for the Nittany Lions. Tom Crean said after the Michigan State loss that his team needs to learn how not to lose before it can win, but Saturday’s game will show us just how much IU has learned from narrow losses to Connecticut, Notre Dame and Illinois against a team it desperately needs to beat.

Filed to:

  • Hey, lighten up.. We have to at least feel good about it going in…lol..
    I will admit though.. We absolutely must win this one and it will be tough. Can you imagine going down to 0 and 4 to start the B1G? We lose this one, and no way do we beat Wiscky..

  • Mee toooo. Don’t think I can face all of this if we lose. Go Hoosiers!!!

  • Ole Man

    Wow, cowboy. You generalize too much and your response, itself, was negative.
    And how you correlate that to RMK demonstrates that you, not others, are holding on to something about RMK. Let it go. The rest of us, even those of us who use to support him, now support CTC and the IU program.

  • Ole Man

    That stinks! Who on earth do you think is coming here that will be better.

  • Ole Man

    Ken, if we win, all the Crean-iacts will be on here telling us how this justifies him as a coach.
    Thing is, I’m not down on him.
    Just get down on those who can’t deal with facts when it comes to CTC.

  • Ole Man

    MK, people see my name and automatically give it a down vote, without reading it. Pay no mind.

  • calbert40

    Point taken. I’m not as high on Appling as some others, though he played well in the 2nd half against us.

  • CreanFaithful

    I remember SU getting away with fouls on seemingly every play, but never equated it to keeping the foul descrency close… While there may be some truth to this, let’s not forget UK getting 37 FT attempts to our 17 in the Sweet 16 a couple years back…

  • CreanFaithful

    Why would anyone point to one game as a justification for CTC? Why would anyone need to justify CTC at all? What CTC “facts” are in dispute?

  • CreamandCrimson

    I haven’t been either…until this season. He’s been fantastic thus far. He’s shooting over 50% and is 48% from 3, is averaging 15.9 ppg and throughout the early conference season, his numbers are up across the board. He’s turned himself into a really good player during his senior season.

  • CreamandCrimson

    They’ve had one of the worst defenses in the nation during his three seasons as a coordinator…it’s a move that had to be made and the bar on who could be better has been set incredibly low.

  • InTheMtns

    Michigan and Arizona didn’t forget any memo – neither one of them has a young team. A few young players, yes; but they also have ample upperclassmen and very experienced sophomores. Deny it if you wish, but the fact remains that Indiana has one of the youngest and least experienced teams in all of Division I. The Indiana team will be well prepared for Penn State, you can count on that. If they are able to execute the plan, then we will win the game.

  • iufan

    Good point.

  • oldiugymnast

    I am sorry for over-generalizing and that is a fair point. My point is that I read over and over again on this site people asking Tom Crean to make the same coaching decisions that someone who was a motion offense coach might make. Maybe it isn’t RMK that is driving this – that is also fair. But expecting coach to run an offense that is a different style than what he runs is frankly not being very realistic. For a change, it would be occasionally nice to read a post that focused on the positive and didn’t devolve into player bashing (that darn JH is just so lazy looking) or coach bashing (the players coughed it up on an inbounds so CTC must have drawn up a stupid inbounds play). I can’t state this with certainty, but my guess is that the coach knows his players, his system and his game plan better than any of us and given his success thus far, might know more than us about how to take this group as far as they can go this year without sacrificing their potential next year and into the future. That was my point and after reading around 40 gloom and doom posts, many almost cheering for us to lose at PSU – well, I may have been just a little snippy.

  • oldiugymnast

    You and CNC are probably right. Obviously from my screen name I am not an expert on basketball (you want to know how to teach a kid to do a double twisting double layout, I am your man), but I love to play and love to watch and that was a casual observation – but it did seem to me that the MSU game was a similar situation. The game was called fairly until Payne got into a little foul trouble and then Stan couldn’t breath on a guy or mutter “I didn’t foul him” under his breath and suddenly its a 6 pt swing on foul shots and a technical plus a basket after. Of course, this is just an observation and I could be way off base – plus its kinda hard to see everything an official can see (or not see) on TV.

  • calbert40

    He has been solid. I think he can disappear at times, but that could be more a product of the roster stacked with talent surrounding him than poor play. I’ve just always decided that I disliked him more than most people. I probably should reconsider my original thoughts.

  • CreanFaithful

    It better be low. I doubt the IU defensive coordinator position is a highly sought after job. Guessing IU will be making OUTBOUND calls to field interest… Let’s hope they can sell an up and comer about our offensive prowess and how ramping up the defense could move IU from the cellar to B1G contender as a result of their efforts.

  • JJ

    I think a shake up in starting line-up is in order. Williams and Hollowell out, Robinson and Davis/Howard in?

  • I like Crean. he has his shortcomings, but what coach doesn’t? If those who are his detractors can ‘tar and feather’ him when we lose and they feel they could’ve done better.. then those that like him should be able to justify him when he wins. Fact is.. there is no justification necessary. The success of Crean certainly does not rise and fall on the whims of the fans. If it did, we’d be in one terrible mess. I just think there is way too much negativity going on this site… a lot of it by guys who have no clue. I like to keep a positive outlook on everything. I think Crean is one of the best out there right now. We’re just going through some rough times right now, but we have the talent to be something special. Just hate to see us take our lumps right now.

  • yimyames

    Thats when a team is suppose to adjust to the game and man up, IMO.

    And hit your free throws, of course.

  • I would hope that Wilson has some guy or guys in mind before he pulled the plug on Doug. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to attract some young talented defensive minded guy. I think we really do have an opportunity to be competitive in the B1G. We played several pretty good teams pretty tough for a good share of some of those games. Big plays just killed us. It seemed we couldn’t stop a run if my grandmother was carrying the ball…lol.. Or the pass for that matter… if she was the receiver..lol..

  • I think I read somewhere we are 332nd in the rankings as the youngest team, top to bottom. Does anyone know for sure?

  • Why does that ‘stink’? Do you realize that out of 123 FBS Schools playing football, IU ranked 113 in points given up per game and 120th in yards given up per game. Nearly every one of our opponents had the best total offensive game of the year against us. Thing is, last year was almost as bad as this year. Last year we gave up about 35 points per game and this year 38.5 or something close to that. Despite the fact that we have actually had some fairly good recruiting classes. Really not sure why it took so long to make the change. I guess one could infer that there are at least 120 or so other defensive coordinators out there that could do at least as good…lol…

  • Kevin Tolliver

    Cmon we can win that game, this team does have it in them

  • Team is growing and this game should help them develop confidence. I think they will score in the paint. Yogi will score 3s and hopefully others will step up to hit some outside shots. Look for 10 pt win. Would love to see JH get his swagger and hit the outside shot without forcing it, and then drive the lane at will. If so this team will make a major step forward….

  • mdtiu88

    I agree with you, and I have posted similar comments. This is year 6th of CTC, and I have watch virtually every IU game and have supported IU like no one else, however these are all his guys being coach by him. if we are truly back we should be in the top half of the B10 not in the bottom. I want us to win tomorrow more than anything, but I haven’t seen anything out CTC that makes believe he can coach and lead this team to victory.

  • PDXHoosier

    have to think Robinson gets the start. he’s earned it

  • PDXHoosier

    their defense could not be any worse. It has been record-setting bad the last 3 years. Not putting that all on the D coordinator, but they had to make a change. Keeping the head coach is the right move.

  • oldiugymnast

    I don’t disagree but against Cuse, not even Zeller could have made a basket the way he was constantly getting hit hard by 3 guys every time he shot.

  • TomJameson

    I normally hate long breaks because of the “rust” that comes along with the next game, but in this case I think the break can only be a good thing. Practice, practice, practice … lol
    I really, really, like this team. Just wish they’d start playing like a team.

  • TomJameson

    No need to call names. Crean supporters would be just fine.

  • Snookafly

    I hear you, but I doubt we’ll have to worry about the intensity of PSU fans getting in our head. That building is usually a ghost town.

  • Ole Man

    My post clearly said that I’m not down on Crean. Other than that, I’m not going to get into a debate with you simply because of your chosen “name”.

  • Ole Man

    I agree. I just don’t see how we can attract anyone better, unfortunately. Maybe if we dip into the Mid-majors, or D2 and come up with some unknown on the rise.

  • Ole Man

    Stinks might have been strong. Actually, he did have to go. I just think that it will be difficult to attract someone really good.

  • Ole Man

    Cool response. And I can understand the “snippy” feeling myself.
    I agree that lately we’ve had some posters who really don’t belong on the site. And I think Alex is doing a good job deleting their posts and banning them.
    For the record, even though he sometimes drives me crazy, I still support CTC; and it is the same with the players. Every time I read another JH “stinks” post, I want to hurl.

  • Ole Man

    I’m a supporter. And you are correct, I am just fine. I thought my “coin of phrase” excellent in describing a certain “camp”. And it’s obvious from the down votes that I am correct.

  • InTheMtns

    According to StatSheet, Indiana’s “experience” level is 340th out of 351 Division 1 teams.

  • IU1972

    Oh, just about anyone who could give up less than 50 pts and 700 yds a game.

  • Wango D. Tango

    Noah Vonley

  • Snookafly

    It’s hard for most IU fans to appreciate Appling since he didn’t show up to either of our games last year.

  • IU ED

    That coach in 1987 knew how to prepare a team and how to make in game adjustments…..somethings that we need to win and do not have.

  • JethroTroll

    They do happen and those nightmares have been real, unfortunately, for the last few years.

  • Dennis

    CTC MUST begin to find a way to get the ball to Noah for several reasons.
    ! – Noah can get the ball to the rim for two and maybe a third being fouled.
    2 – This is a quick way to get to the line and get their defense in trouble.
    3 – and maybe the best for the long run – Noah needs to be the guy or 2nd guy to-go-to to show current recruits or future bigs that they will get their share of the play.
    How can we expect future bigs to rally and come to IU if they see that they will not get the ball to do their thing – which is what they want to do to have fun and get to the NBA. If Noah does not get to show this, we will be having a hard time getting future bigs to sign on.
    Speaking of bigs, has anyone heard anything on what we are doing relative to Stephen Zimmerman or Diamond Stone since they are both still available?

  • Lookn4banner6

    So far this season what are the positives? I want to stay positive but frankly there is not much there. If Crean ends up with another losing record in Big Ten (something Izzo, Matta and Ryan have NEVER had) then what are the positives. Please don’t say the arrival of James Blackmon.

  • CreanFaithful

    Fails to answer any reasonable questions, acts as if he’s made a point…

  • Ole Man

    You write an excellent self-summation.

  • CreanFaithful

    Had you posed a question, I might have attempted to answer. I posed 3 questions to which you replied “My post most clearly said I’m not down on Crean.” Great. I never said anything about you “being down on Crean.” Seems a bit defensive. Then there is the whole “chosen name” comment. I’m moving on…