Like last week's lunar eclipse, a Penn State road win to open conference play is pretty rare, but that's just what the Nittany Lions got Monday night with a 69-60 triumph over Indiana in Bloomington, and they have their veterans to thank for it.
Behind 23 points and 8 boards from Jeff Brooks, 19 points, 6 rebounds and three assists from Talor Battle and 15 points and 8 boards from David Jackson, Penn State got out of Assembly Hall with a victory it had to have and one it probably didn't deserve.
While the senior trio went off big time, the rest of the team came up very small with only 12 points and five rebounds combined. For reference, that's about an average night for David Jackson alone. Needless to say, Penn State isn't going to win a whole lot of games with distribution like that, but fortunately for Penn State, they got away with one tonight.
The win moves the Lions to 8-4 overall and obviously 1-0 in conference play. It's barely a lead and it likely won't last for long, but remember, Penn State lost its first 12 conference games last season. It may not be much, but it's progress.
- It was good to see Talor Battle not only play, but play effectively after an injury scare with his hand after the loss to Maine last week. He didn't hold too much back tonight and his shot looked fine, so hopefully he's already over that. The hand is probably still worth monitoring, but not a big concern anymore at this point.
- It's pretty stunning how much better Penn State plays when Brooks is on the floor. As I've mentioned repeatedly, the senior forward has been in foul trouble in three of the team's four losses, but the Lions are now 11-1 when he sees full minutes. That's no coincidence. He's really blossomed this season and he may, stress may, be more important to the team than Talor Battle given the team's lack of depth at forward. If there's one thing he needs to work on, it's managing his aggression, which he did very well Monday night, so give him a lot of credit.
- David Jackson's consistency this season has been very impressive, and he kept it going against Indiana. Tip of the hat to him.
- Penn State shot the ball well. The Lions hit 53% from the field, 47% from three point territory and 73% from the line.
- The Lions out rebounded the Hoosiers 27-25 and held Indiana's leading scorer, forward Christian Watford, to three points. The interior defense was pretty good, once again, one of the few consistently solid aspects of Penn State's play all season.
- Penn State gave up nine offensive rebounds, holding Indiana below its season average of 11, but leaving the door open for second chance points the Lions can't afford to concede.
- The Lions had 12 turnovers and grabbed only six offensive rebounds of their own, a big part of the reason they only got up 39 shots Monday evening. For comparison, Penn State had 65 shots in its loss to Maryland. Most nights, you'd much rather have the 65 than the 39, but somehow, Penn State got by tonight. The Lions likely won't shoot the great percentage they did against the Hoosiers on most nights, so it's important they get up more shots moving forward.
- This team's depth issues are bordering insane right now. 12 and five? Seriously? What's worse is, not only were the role players not making shots, they weren't even taking them. Andrew Jones played 37 minutes and had one shot from the field the entire evening. Tim Frazier played 28 minutes and had two shots. Billy Oliver and Cammeron Woodyard combined for three shots in 23 minutes. That's absolutely pathetic. The big three can't do it every night. Penn State's losses so far have proven that, and when one of the three guys is off, the Lions are probably going to lose. Fair enough. But it's incredibly disturbing that Battle, Jackson and Brooks probably had their most productive combined evening ever Monday night and Penn State was STILL in a dog fight. The role guys need to get with the program quickly. Performances like that are unacceptable, win or lose.
- Taran Buie was suspended tonight, and will be indefinitely for a violation for team rules. We'll have more on this tomorrow, but whatever he did to get suspended made the a bad bench a whole lot worse. Way to be a team player, Taran.