After a sluggish first half that found IU trailing by two at home, the Hoosiers caught fire offensively in the second half and held Penn State to 22 percent shooting in the second half to put an end to a frustrating three-game losing streak. It wasn't always pretty, and the first half felt like more of the same, but the Hoosiers finally pulled away, opening up a double digit lead that they never relinquished with about 10 minutes remaining. When all was said and done, IU posted its best numbers of the Big Ten season in defensive efficiency (.974), offensive efficiency (1.31), defensive effective field goal percentage (38), and second best in offensive turnover percentage at 16.5 (9 total in a slow, 55 possession game, but Penn State only had 8, so IU is still in the red in nearly all of its Big Ten games).
Another "tale of two halves" statistic: in the first half, IU allowed Penn State 8 offensive boards compared to only 9 defensive boards for IU, while grabbing on 3 offensive boards compared to 10 DRs for Penn State. In the second half, things were a bit better on the defensive boards, with Penn State managing 7 OBs to 14 IU defensive rebounds (as an aside, this game is a great example of why raw rebounding numbers are pretty useless; based on raw numbers, one might conclude that the Nittany Lions' offensive rebounding prowess was similar in both halves, but by shooting 22 percent in the second half, Penn State provided a bunch of OR opportunities for itself).
The lasting memory of this game, unfortunately, will be the minor scuffle with six seconds remaining. Unquestionably, new coach Patrick Chambers has instilled a new attitude in the Penn State program, and I think to succeed in basketball at PSU the program needs an edge. Still, it was a fairly chippy game throughout. Earlier in the second half, Penn State's Nick Colella and IU's Will Sheehey were assessed double technicals for jawing at each other. With around 36 seconds remaining, Tim Frazier made a layup, and Chambers called a 30 second timeout. IU inbounded the ball, and Penn State played a very aggressive, trapping defense. With about six seconds remaining, and with the game clock and shot clock nearly in sync, Christian Watford attempted a three pointer. Penn State's Ross Travis fouled Watford very hard, hacking him on the arm and landing on top of him. This occurred directly in front of the IU bench, and some jawing between the teams ended up with both Travis and Sheehey (who wasn't in the game at the time) being assessed technicals. I tend to agree with the coaches that this simply isn't all that big a deal. First, I have no problem with Watford taking the shot. The shot clock appeared to be slightly ahead of the game clock, so it wasn't a true dribble it out. Further, and more importantly, Penn State wasn't treating it like a dribble-it-out situation. Chambers called a timeout with 30 seconds remaining. His defenders were not hanging back, but were trying to force a turnover. If Penn State didn't think the game was over, then IU can hardly be faulted for acting as if the game wasn't over. As to the foul itself, it was a hard foul, and was probably more aggressive than would have been the case if the game were in doubt (in other words, he wasn't making any effort not to foul). Still, he was going for the ball, and Watford wasn't closely guarded, so Travis had to cover some distance to defend the play. Finally, and most importantly, even though Will Sheehey was ejected for drawing two technical fouls, that's not the same thing as being ejected for fighting, so Sheehey will be available for the Wisconsin game on Thursday. It's hard for me to complain too much about Sheehey's emotions, because he seems, from my outside perspective, to have the best frame of mind of anyone on the team consistently.
Individual performances of note:
- Sheehey's numbers weren't overwhelming (8 points on 3-7 shooting in 14 minutes), but I hope he approaches 100 percent health soon, because he is playing very well. Sheehey might be the most versatile player on IU's roster, and when the ball is in his hands, I have more confidence of something good happening than with any other player right now, even Zeller.
- Speaking of Cody Zeller, he did exactly what he should do against an overmatched team: 18 points, 7-8 from the field, 4-4 from the line, and 4 blocks. His turnover number was a bit high (3) and his rebound number a bit low (4), but obviously the Lions had no answer for him.
- Jordan Hulls had a rough shooting night (3-9/2-7), but thanks to 6-6 from the line he finished with a solid 14 points on 9 shots. Hulls had 3 assists and no turnovers and 3 steals.
- Verdell Jones III didn't make a huge impact on the box score, with 4 points on 2-6 shooting, but also had 3 assists to no turnovers.
- Matt Roth didn't duplicate his Bryce Jordan Center performance of a couple of weeks ago, but did provide some nice flashbacks, 2-2 shooting, both from deep, of course.
Well, it's over. I'm still dwelling on the Nebraska game, and the first half was troubling, but it's a relief. The 19-point margin is the largest of the Big Ten season to date and is tied for the widest margin of victory against a Big Ten opponent in the Crean era (last year's Michigan game also was a 19-point win). Now, the Hoosiers get a fairly long layoff before traveling to Madison to take on Wisconsin on Thursday. The Badgers had a rough start to Big Ten play, losing home games to MSU and Iowa (and to Marquette in the pre-conference) and losing badly at Michigan. Since starting 1-3 in the Big Ten, the Badgers have rallied, and have now won four in a row, including at Purdue and Illinois. I'm convinced that anything can happen in any Big Ten game this season, but IU will have to play its best game of the season to get its first win at Kohl since 1999 and first win over the Badgers anywhere since 2007 (IU's longest current losing streak against a Big Ten opponent). Still, it's nice to have the depseration behind us.