When Indiana won at Iowa by a score of 69-65 in its Big Ten opener, it was mostly met with a collective "eh, a win's a win" by Hoosier Nation.
It didn't take long for that win to look more like a precious commodity.
We're just one week in to league play, and it's become obvious that -- like most years -- road wins in the Big Ten are going to be extremely hard to come by. Not including Indiana's victory at Iowa, road teams are just 2-8, with one of those wins being No. 2 Michigan trouncing hapless Northwestern in Evanston. (Wisconsin survived a scare at Nebraska on Sunday for the other road win.)
No. 5 Indiana has a chance to get another victory away from home when it travels to Penn State tonight for a 7 p.m. contest. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network.
To say Big Ten road wins have been few and far between under coach Tom Crean is like saying ESPN kind of likes Tim Tebow. The win at Iowa moved Crean's Big Ten road record to a woeful 5-32, with only one of those wins coming prior to last season.
The only -- and I mean only -- road destination where Crean has had any success is Penn State. The Hoosiers are 2-2 at the Bryce Jordan Center under Crean, including an 88-82 win a year ago.
Penn State went 12-20 last year, with a 4-14 mark in the Big Ten. Spearheaded by All-Conference guard Tim Frazier, the Nittany Lions had high hopes for this season, but that all changed when Frazier suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, a devastating blow for Penn State. (Side note: Frazier is eligible for a medical redshirt and could play next season.)
Things haven't yet completely crumbled for the Nittany Lions and second-year coach Pat Chambers, who always has his troops playing hard and passionate. Since the injury to Frazier, Penn State picked up a nice home win over Bucknell and came in to league play on a four-game win streak.
The Nittany Lions (8-5, 0-1) played well in their Big Ten opener at Wisconsin, trailing by one point late before four straight empty possessions led to a 60-51 loss.
"That game was up for grabs," Crean said, according to IUHoosiers.com, in his pregame press conference on Saturday. "Wisconsin took the lead and Penn State never went away. I think that's what Pat has done with his team, and that's that they never ever go away. They're constantly playing. They're talented. They miss Tim Frazier, but every game they are that much more comfortable with one another, and you can see that."
Guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall are leading the way for Penn State. Both are in the top five in the conference in minutes played per game.
Newbill, a sophomore, is the only Big Ten player to rank in the top 15 in scoring (15.5), assists (3.9) and rebounds (6.3). Marshall, a junior, is averaging 14.9 points while adding 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
In the loss to Wisconsin, Marshall has 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting while Newbill posted an all-around line of 12 points, eight boards and four helpers.
"Marshall and Newbill are handling the ball," said Crean. "They are taking most of their shots. Their teammates feed off of them. They are really dangerous when they're in the same action, whether they are on the same side, which they seem to be a lot. They both have things that they really, really do well."
Forwards Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis average 7.4 and 7.2 points, respectively. Travis snared a team-best 11 rebounds against the Badgers.
Shooting has been a bugaboo for the youthful Nittany Lions, whose starting lineup features four underclassmen. Penn State is hitting merely 29.3 percent of its 3-point tries and shooting 41.2 percent overall. Penn State also has an assist-to-turnover ratio under one.
After the 69-65 triumph at Iowa on New Year's Eve, Indiana is looking to win back-to-back Big Ten road games for the first time in the Crean Era. The victory at Iowa wasn't pretty. The Hoosiers were held under 80 points for just the second time all year, and sharpshooter Jordan Hulls misfired on all 10 of his shot attempts.
Cody Zeller paced Indiana (13-1, 1-0) with 19 points and 10 boards. Victor Oladipo had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Yogi Ferrell added nine points, seven rebounds and four assists. Will Sheehey and Christian Watford tossed in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Crean said the win over the Hawkeyes -- which came in Indiana's first true road game -- was big for the Hoosiers, especially with it being a hard-fought, grind-it-out affair.
"I think it's very important," he said. "It's crucial that they have that. This team needs to be in some fights. We've been in some fights, and the only way you can learn to win consistently in a league like this is to fight your way through it. It gave them confidence."
Penn State may be just what Hulls needs to regroup from his 0-for. He averaged 20.7 points and made 13 of 22 from beyond the arc in three wins over the Nittany Lions a year ago.
Zeller (16.6), Oladipo (13.6), Watford (12.5), Sheehey (12.4) and Hulls (10.9) lead a powerful Indiana scoring attack. The Hoosiers are shooting 51 percent from the field, 41 percent from deep and 76 percent from the free throw line. Indiana is eighth in the nation in rebounds per game (42.5) and 11th in assists per contest (17.5).
Chambers lauded the Hoosiers -- the country's highest-scoring team (87.9) -- in his meeting with reporters on Sunday, according to gopsusports.com.
"They're an offensive powerhouse," said Chambers, who got his first Division I win as a head coach when his Boston squad knocked off Indiana in the 2009 Puerto Rico classic. "They have five guys in double figures; they have a great bench; great coach; a lottery pick in a big man; good guards; [and] good 3-point shooters."
Indiana won all three of its meetings with Penn State a year ago, ending the Nittany Lions season in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Collectively, the Big Ten has a record of 134-42, but that mark will only get worse as teams beat up on each other over the next couple months. While Indiana and Michigan are among the nation's best teams, it'd be a surprise if either escaped Big Ten play with anything less than four conference losses.
It's that kind of league this year, and winning away from home against good teams is going to be extremely difficult for everyone.
Matchups at Michigan, at Minnesota, at Illinois, at Ohio State and at Michigan State will be incredible challenging for Indiana, in addition to playing those teams -- sans Illinois -- at homel. If Indiana wants to capture a regular-season Big Ten title, road games like this one need to be won.