Sometimes, you need to hit rock bottom before things start looking up. After a complete obliteration at the hands of Iowa on Wednesday, Penn State found themselves staring down the barrel of an Indiana offense that can score, and score quickly.
The Hoosiers tested Penn State's perimeter defense immediately, shooting a three on its first two possessions. The Lions' defense kept pace early and made the Hoosiers work for their shots. That defense led to early turnovers for Indiana. More importantly, it allowed Penn State to avoid digging a humongous hole in the first minutes of the game, and instead being up six by the first media timeout. The good news would end shortly after, as Indiana tied the game with a little over ten minutes left in the first half. A few turnovers by the Lions and a few made threes by the Hoosiers erased the 5-point lead Penn State had built up to that point.
The game went back and forth for the rest of the half, with each team seemingly doing their best to both take over the game and give it to the opposing team. Two back-to-back turnovers by Penn State followed by a Flagrant 1 foul gave Indiana just the break they needed. After a bit of a cold stretch that allowed the Hoosiers to go up 2, Isaiah Washington drilled his first three since the Michigan State game. Back and forth it went, and Indiana took the 1-point lead to the half.
The second half picked up where the first left off. Indiana and Penn State traded buckets for the first five minutes of the half, with Shep Garner taking over the scoring load that Brandon Taylor had in the first half. Despite fouls and turnovers piling up for the Lions, they were still able to keep pace with Indiana mainly off the aforementioned scoring by Garner and top notch defense on the other end of the floor. At the under-12 media timeout, Indiana had gone on a 0-for-7 shooting slump, scoring only via free throws. While not taking full advantage of Indiana's struggles, Penn State was still able to score and stay within the game. Every time Indiana threatened to take over the game, Penn State answered with just enough offense.
Many teams would have given up long ago when facing what Penn State has faced to date. Not Penn State. They battled in every possession, making Indiana earn every single point they scored. Unlike the many times they had to fight their way into a game late, Penn State was in the position to close it out this time around. With 37 seconds left, Garner made one of two free throws to put the Lions up 2. Indiana followed it up by turning the ball over. Penn State closed it out. Finally.
Four Factors Analysis
Penn State moved the ball well, and it paid dividends. There were points when they fell back to their old habits, and they paid for it in cold stretches where Indiana would build up a slight lead. Indiana also started with the rebound edge, but Penn State found its groove as the game progressed and stopped, which prevented the Hoosiers from getting the 2nd- and 3rd-chance opportunities they were getting early on. Penn State's defense held Indiana to its worst shooting night in so far this season. They controlled the tempo, held on to the ball, and shared it well. Penn State had 11 assists in the game, and again, it ended up with another win.
Players of the Game:
Devin Foster - 13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist.
Shep Garner - 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists.
Brandon Taylor - 24 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals.
Taylor did enough by himself to deserve the nod here, but this was definitely a team effort. Everyone, even Isaiah Washington, pitched in to make this win, but those three made an immense impact. It's nice to see Foster having good games of late. Hopefully this performance carries over for the rest of the season.
- The many faces of Shep Garner – As you probably already know, Garner is a very animated fella. Watching his many expressions during in games is sometimes more entertaining than the game itself.
- The return of Josh Reaves – Reaves saw limited action in his return to the court, but you could tell he was still feeling the after-effects of his illness. Hopefully the week of rest allows him to be back at 100% for their next tilt.
- One every year - Every year, Chambers manages to get one of these completely unbelievable, completely surprising wins against a top team. This team's relentlessness makes any team who looks past them pay for their mistake. This time, it was Indiana's turn to learn that lesson.
- The schedule eases up - Only two of the next seven games are against the top of the conference. Three are against teams tied or below Penn State in the standings. This win sets up nicely for the rest of the season.
Penn State gets a week off to revel in the win and travels to Nebraska next Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Shavon Shields' status for the game may be questionable, as he sustained a concussion in their last game, against Rutgers.