What to Expect: Penn State

  • 02/11/2014 4:29 pm in

Indiana will look to complete a season sweep on Wednesday when it welcomes Penn State to Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers trailed by 15 in the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 11, but prevailed 79-76 over the Nittany Lions for their only road win of the season thus far.

The game will be broadcast on BTN at 7 p.m. ET and on the IU radio network (Sirius 108, XM 190):

As the calendar prepares to hit mid-February, Indiana is running out of time to make a run and a climb up in the Big Ten standings. The Hoosiers have avoided losing more than two in a row in league play, but they’ve been unable to string together the necessary wins to get back to .500 in league play.

With just eight conference games left, we’ve hit the point where one of two things will happen: IU could reel off two or three in a row and get in position for nine conference wins and keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Or the Hoosiers could continue along the path we’ve seen in recent weeks: A win at home followed by an inability to close the door on the road with a second half lead. That path would likely only be good enough for seven or eight conference wins and a berth in the N.I.T.

In a season where the Hoosiers continue to search for consistency, this is the week where they must find it. On the schedule is a Penn State team that’s reeling a bit after two straight conference losses, including a home loss at the hands of Illinois. And then it’s on to Purdue, a team that’s in nearly the same boat as IU from an experience standpoint with less overall talent.

At 14-9 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten, Indiana’s margin for error is small. And as the days continue to pass on the calendar, it’s become now or never time if the Hoosiers are going to make a push for a third straight NCAA tournament appearance.


At the top of the scouting report for the Nittany Lions are a pair of guards, D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier, who are accounting for 30.1 of the team’s 70.9 points per game in league play. Frazier has been the more efficient player in Big Ten games with an effective field goal percentage of 49.1, but Newbill is the team’s leading scorer in conference at 16.2 points per game with an eFG% of 45.4.

As pointed in out in the Big Ten power rankings over at UMHoops.com, both players are exceptional in isolation situations:

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Where both players struggle is shooting from the perimeter — Newbill is only hitting 26.7 of his 3s in conference and Frazier is hitting just 32 percent of his trey attempts. Frazier is also Penn State’s best distributor with an assist rate of 28 percent, but he’s also turnover prone with an average of three per game.

Three guards — Geno Thorpe, John Johnson and Graham Woodward — see minutes of the bench with Johnson and Woodward as the two more frequent contributors. Johnson has been even worse from the perimeter than Newbill with a 3-point percentage of just 22.5 in conference while Woodward hits 40 percent of his 3s.

In the frontcourt, Pat Chambers went with Donovan Jack, Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis in the loss to Illinois, but that could potentially change as Woodward has been starting some as of late. Taylor is the best scorer of the three (8.7 ppg), but is hitting just 35.2 percent of his 2s and 31.1 percent of his 3s. He’s also an average rebounder (4.4 rpg) for a player with his size at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds.

Travis has also shot in poorly in Big Ten play, hitting just 37.3 percent of his 2s, while Jack, who prefers to operate primarily on the perimeter, has the best effective field goal percentage on the frontline at 47.2.



Both teams have similar offensive outputs thus far in Big Ten play. Indiana is scoring .98 points per possession and Penn State is at .99. The Hoosiers, however, have a top five defense while Penn State is closing in on the conference cellar.

The Nittany Lions don’t turn it over much and they’re also solid defending the 3-pointer in league games, but there are several key areas that IU should be able to exploit:

· Get to the line: Penn State is actually second in the conference in 2-point field goal percentage defense, but the Nittany Lions have struggled to keep teams off the foul line, which is a strength of Indiana’s offense when it attacks.

· Crash the boards: Penn State is the Big Ten’s worst defensive rebounding team and in the win at the Bryce Jordan Center, Indiana rebounded 48.6 percent of its misses. Even if Indiana isn’t shooting well, second chance points will be there for the taking.

Also of note: The Nittany Lions rank second in the Big Ten in block percentage, so it’s important for Indiana, a team that doesn’t finish particularly well through contact, to avoid forcing the issue around the basket.


Of Indiana’s remaining games, Pomeroy ranks this as the best chance for a win at 76 percent and his model likes Indiana to win, 74-67. Sagarin likes Indiana by closer to eight points and the Vegas line opened with the Hoosiers favored by eight as well.

Penn State, like Indiana, has one road win in conference, an impressive 71-70 triumph in overtime against Ohio State back on Jan. 29. In a year that’s truly been unpredictable, it’s tough to say whether that Nittany Lions team, or the one with three conference road losses by 13 or more, will show up.

For Indiana, this is a must-win to keep any hope alive of pushing back to the .500 mark in conference play and given how big of a mismatch Noah Vonleh is for Penn State to handle inside, it’s a great opportunity to involve the big man early and often. Prior to the game at Michigan State last month, we wrote that it was gut check time for the Hoosiers. On Wednesday night, it’s now or never time if Indiana is to make a strong push going as the calendar quickly heads towards March.

(Photo credit: Craig Houtz/GoPSUSports.com)

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  • Gregory Spera

    In their previous contest, these two powerhouse teams combined to shoot
    39% and commit 47 fouls. What do I expect? I expect this will again be hard to watch. Just hoping for a win, any way we can get it.

  • BigAd

    I see Vonleh walking around campus 2-3 times a week and he is almost always wearing a walking boot on his left foot. I don’t remember hearing about him having any injuries this season, so it’s just confusing to me. Is this just him taking a precaution or is he a little banged up? Obviously he hasn’t missed any time, and doesn’t look hurt when he plays, but I’m just curious.

  • InTheMtns

    Noah has been wearing the walking boot off and on for some time now and when the coaches have been asked about it in the past, their responses have always been that it’s precautionary. I assume there is some underlying weakness or a past injury that they are being abundantly precautionary with. Whenever Noah’s been asked about it, he’s always said that he’s OK.

  • SCHoosier

    Frazier has been a different player since the injury..but still dangerous,. Newbill is the guy who can hurt the Hoosiers….assuming they don’t do themselves in with TO’s.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Offensive rebounding and a strong zone to prevent penetration and cause turnovers. We should blow them out this time. Call me crazy, I think it’s time for Jeremy Hollowell to make a statement.

  • Steve Fischer

    Why isn’t this game on national TV ? (LOL)

  • Alford Bailey

    So you aren’t expecting an Instant Classic? LOL

  • Ole Man

    Vonleh will score 10 pts in the first seven minutes. Go to the bench for seven minutes.
    Get one more shot in the first half.
    In the second half get two more shots (on offensive rebounds).
    And that’s why you should rarely pick him in Pick to Click. LOL.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Obviously, this is a must-win game (this is a must-win week actually…beat PSU and win at Purdue and we are firmly back on the bubble). I’m going to be “Inside the Hall” for this one so despite the potential for some pretty ugly basketball, I’m looking forward to it…it’s always great to see the Hoosiers in person. Anyway, the Hoosiers need to win this one and I don’t particularly care how ugly it ends up being, I’ll be happy if we get a W. That being said, here’s a few things I’m going to be looking for:

    -Can Stan Robinson bounce back? He was pretty awful at Minnesota and we need him to be effective if we are going to make a run at the tournament.
    -Who takes Newbill/Frazier? I would think Yogi would probably take Frazier for the most part and maybe a combo of Stan and Will take Newbill…we’ll see.
    -Noah Vonleh should have a big night. Can we effectively keep him involved throughout the night?
    -I enjoyed the shortened rotation during the Minnesota game, I hope it continues.

  • marcusgresham

    Yeah, except the later into the season it gets the less inclined B1G refs are to call fouls. The shooting %s may still be crap, but there may be less fouls called.

  • marcusgresham

    Remember, he had it on at Hoosier Hysteria and they said the same thing.

  • calbert40

    I’m not a big believer in the “must win” scenario (outside of tournaments), but I think this game is a must win situation. I think we will get it done tonight. The only thing that really concerns me is that we have been playing to our opponent’s level a lot in the B1G. If we play like we did against UM, we will be good.

    So far as who guards Newbill/Frazier, I’m actually more worried about Newbill. I wonder if Crean will go with a scheme like we used against UM?

  • CreamandCrimson

    Newbill has been the better player of the two this season (in my opinion…Frazier just makes some really odd decisions for a player of his caliber) and I think he’s the tougher matchup for IU. The scheme against Stauskas was brilliantly planned and executed. We won’t do the same thing against Penn State because the Nittany Lions don’t play anything like Michigan (not near as much screening, more isolation). Yogi has done a good job on Frazier every time he has played him (I know Frazier has scored some against him but I think he has generally had to work really hard for his points against us) but I’ll be interested to see who ends up taking Newbill and how they do against him.

  • iuoiu

    I think he kinda made one last game on the road. He’s still not able to just take a game over, and he’s not getting the PT now anyway to do that. He’s got to earn it back little by little which overall he’s doing game by game since his mini-exile earlier in the season. I’m really happy in the direction he’s heading. He could have packed it in after the big benching, but he decided to pick the harder but more rewarding path – I like that.

  • calbert40

    Right. I don’t necessarily mean play the same scheme we used against UM, but throwing some different looks at them. I think Yogi does well against Frazier, but we need to do something to limit Newbill. He will get his points, but we just can’t let him get 20+. I don’t know if that is Will or Stan, or even Troy (might be my pick…at least for a possession here and there). I think Crean will draw something up.

  • CreamandCrimson

    We appear to be two of a select few that are interested in discussing this game haha…Crean and staff will certainly have some plans (none of us have loved our painful offense this season but the defensive progression has been fun to watch). The comments made by the players and staff are pretty interesting because they seem to focus quite a bit on Taylor. We’ll see how they deal with him. Troy still gets lost on defense a bit too much for anyone’s liking but he could be used on Newbill for a few possessions throughout the game. I personally like making Will Sheehey the primary defender on him and then throwing Stan and Troy at him for a change of pace throughout the game. Newbill (and most of their team) is struggling from deep so we’ll certainly see the zone some as well. I really hope we can generate some offense so that a great defensive effort gives us a 15-20 point win.

  • SCHoosier

    Can’t forget the wing kid with the pony-tail dreds (Taylor?) I think he’s averaging in the teens and can hit the 3 pt shot.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I didn’t forget him…”The comments made by the players and staff are pretty interesting because they seem to focus quite a bit on Taylor.”…he’s averaging 8.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg and is shooting 35% from 2 and 31% from 3 which is why I found it interesting that our guys mentioned him multiple times. He could hurt us and have a career night but his numbers (and when I’ve watched them) don’t support the notion he’s playing well. I really think that if we keep Frazier and Newbill reasonably in check and don’t play too horribly on offense that we’ll win by 8-10 (I don’t think we have the offensive firepower to win by much more!).

  • calbert40

    Evidently! haha!

    I don’t think Troy could take him for long stretches, but long and agile defenders tend to shake up smaller guards. Newbill isn’t “small,” but he isn’t as long as Troy either.

    I like the idea of throwing different players at him throughout the game.

  • IUJeff

    I expect a win and and Hollowell to come off the bench and play hard again.
    Vonleh to continue to be a beast inside and out, and Hanner to be on the court at the same time as Vonleh some (CTC reads ITH).
    Yogi denying Frazier the ball or forcing him to his left hand and holds him to 7 pts and 5 assists.
    Will gets to the 1000 pt milestone. AE busts 2 threes.
    Stan gets back on track. Some good PT from Devin and Evan.
    Troy and Hanner combine for 5 rim rattling dunks.
    IU by 12

  • HoosierGrampy

    Unfortunately, they did.

  • HoosierGrampy

    CTC will not play HMP AND NV at the same time…SMH.

  • deebo

    Crazy lol j/k