Penn State's home loss to Maine last week offered a reasonable jumping off point for what's left of the team's bandwagon. That said, it didn't cause the formal cancellation of basketball season as the Nittany Lions travel to Indiana tonight to open their Big Ten schedule against the Hoosiers at 6:30 P.M. on the Big Ten Network.
If the Lions have any kind of postseason hopes, they'll need a win against this team. Indiana, though a respectable 9-4, owns only two top-200 wins against Wright State and Evansville and is coming off an 10-21 record in 2009-2010. Additionally, only two Hoosiers average double figures, so if there is any low hanging fruit on Penn State's schedule, this is it.
With Talor Battle healthy, or at least relatively so after a scare with his hand after the Maine game, Ed DeChellis will have the full active roster at his disposal tonight. Keys to the game after the jump.
When Penn State Has The Ball
- Establishing some flow with Jeff Brooks and David Jackson will be very important for the Lions. The pair has shown that the best way for them to make an impact on the game is to get involved early and make the most of their touches while the things are still settling down, so it's important for the guards to feed them right off the tip.
- This is conference play, now. Penn State needs its bench to contribute something. The Lions can't afford to see guys like Billy Oliver and Taran Buie go MIA on offense or, worse, sit on the perimeter and jack unnecessary threes outside of the set offense.
- Penn State should look to attack Christian Watford on the inside. He's Indiana's most dangerous option at the other end, averaging over 18 points per game, so if the Lions can get him in a little foul trouble, it'll do wonders for them defensively.
When Indiana Has The Ball
- It's important for Jeff Brooks to be aggressive, but in control. His shot blocking and rebounding numbers are way up this year, which is great, but he's also run into foul trouble in three of Penn State's four losses, which has killed the offense at the other end. First and foremost, the Lions need Brooks on the floor, so he has to do a better job of picking his spots on defense and keeping himself off the bench.
- Penn State needs to crash the defensive glass in this one. The Hoosiers are averaging a little over 11 offensive boards per game and are getting a lot of second chance scoring. If the Lions can limit that, they'll need less scores on the other end, which is always a good when you're as offensively challenged as State is.
- The Hoosiers are averaging 38% shooting from the arc against a pretty crappy slate of opponents so far this season. It's important for the Lions to hold them to that number and not let them shoot close to 20 points better than their average like they allowed Maine to do last week. This sounds pretty fundamental, but it's true.
- While Indiana only has two guys averaging double figures, it has six players averaging north of seven points per game where Penn State has only three. The Hoosiers are much deeper than the Lions, and over the course of 40 minutes, the deeper team almost always has the advantage. If Penn State can keep it's big three scorers out of foul trouble, it should be able to offset some of that advantage, but if the game starts going into the benches, then things could be very dicey for the Lions. Ultimately, look for the game to come down to this.