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Penn State vs. Indiana Preview: Nittany Lions Look to Keep Pace in a Jumbled Big Ten Race

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Can Penn State win their third straight at home with a difficult road trip looming?

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions come into this game at 3-2 in Big Ten play, already off to their best start in league play under Chambers. With a win against Indiana tonight, they can match the best Penn State start since 1999-2000. This would be a nice boost heading into a two tough games on the road against Purdue and Wisconsin.

The Hoosiers are in quite another position having lost 4 of their last 6 games and off to a disappointing 2-3 start in Big Ten play. They badly need this win to get back on track. Additionally, Indiana will be looking to avenge last year’s defeat at the BJC, as they fell 68-63 to Penn State behind a 24-point performance from Brandon Taylor.

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Indiana Hoosiers 6:30 PM EST, Wednesday, Februrary 1 Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana) BTN 39 14-8, 4-5 Big Ten tba

Scouting the Opposition

Indiana comes into the game looking for their first true road-win of the season with a head-scratching loss at Fort Wayne, and a loss last week at Maryland. The Hoosiers are a classic Tom Crean team: no discipline but very talented offensively. To prove it they are currently fifth in the nation in rebound margin (+10.9), 14th in field goal percentage (49.8) and 17th in scoring (84.6).

They have size and talent in the paint to take advantage of a Penn State team that has struggled on the boards. Although a usual starter at forward, Juwan Morgan, may miss the game due to injury. They are an efficient offensive team that can shoot lights out from inside and out. Three starters: Robert Johnson, James Blackmon, and Thomas Bryant are shooting over 40 percent from three-point range, although Bryant shoots them much less frequently.

The most glaring weakness of this Indiana team plays into one of Penn State’s strengths, and gives me some hope when looking at this match-up. Indiana turns the ball over at an alarming pace of 21.1 percent of possessions (good enough for 297th in the country), while not forcing many themselves. Everyone on the team can shoot lights out but I feel the loss of Yogi Ferrell is keeping people in line more than expected.

What to Watch For

You might confuse this for a PSU vs. IU football preview, but the match-up of Penn State’s stifling defense against Indiana high-powered offense is going to be the highlight while their respectively mediocre units at the other end duke it out. Mike Watkins will have his work cut out for him going against Thomas Bryant in the paint, and will need another impressive night on the boards to keep Penn State in the game.

Prediction

The last four meetings between these teams have been decided by five or fewer points, which has me wishing I could just predict a close game. Penn State is riding some momentum, but I’m not ready to say the Minnesota win means they’ll finish off every game like that. Indiana comes in needing a win, and capable of putting points up in a hurry. In the end, I think the Hoosiers turnovers will be their downfall, leading to a Penn State win. Josh Reaves and Lamar Stevens are co-MVPs with an increase in transition opportunities allowing them to shine.

Penn State 79, Indiana 75