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Indiana 78, Penn State 75: Lions Comeback Effort Falls Just Short

Fresh off a second-half comeback win over the Gophers, Penn State tried to do it again against the Hoosiers

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Moore helped set the tone early with the first 6 points for Penn State (more on this later). Rather than turnovers, it was winning the rebound battle early that helped the Lions build a lead in the first half. The team avoided a sluggish start that could have been lethal against Indiana’s offense. Foul trouble and (of course) cold shooting squandered the lead for the Nittany Lions as Indiana was able to take control. A strong finish by Thomas Bryant over Josh Reaves around the 12-minute mark properly summarized the turning of the tide.

From then on, it felt like Penn State was just trying to hang on. Foul trouble started to become a factor, and Indiana heated up from the field. Shooting around 30% from the field against one of the best offensive teams in the country is going to limit your chances to win. Nazeer Bostick got some extended run, and showed flashes of why the coaches are so excited about him – of course, he also showed why his minutes have been so limited with some mental lapses.

“Just keep it close,” I kept repeating to myself as Indiana threatened to pull away late in the first half. Credit the Nittany Lions for hanging tough. They kept it close through rebounding and finishes in the paint rather than a hot shooting streak. Tony Carr especially showed that he can be more than a facilitator, leading all scorers with 13 points in the first half. Neither he nor the rest of the team looked daunted by the task at hand.

Indiana lost starting guard OG Anunoby to end the first-half, which may have contributed to their turnover heavy start to the second-half. Penn State used the transition game to draw fouls, and slowly creeped back in the game before their own turnovers took them back out. Even without Anunoby, the three-headed attack of Blackmon, Johnson, and Bryant proved to be a bit too much. Their efficiency made up for the turnovers and fouls they committed that allowed Penn State to stay within striking distance.

Things started to fall about in the middle of the second half. Easy buckets off offensive rebounds for Indiana, and a trademark Penn State scoring drought allowed the lead to balloon up to 14 points. Defensively, it seemed they had no answer in the paint to shut down Indiana’s athletic finishes above the rim.

Keeping with their relentless identify, Penn State never let up pressure. Anytime Indiana relaxed, the Nittany Lions were right there to take advantage of it. The veteran scoring for the Hoosiers proved to be too much. Even when forced late into the shot clock, Indiana seemed to find an open shot or grab an offensive board for another go. Penn State also hung close in the rebound battle against a very talented Indiana team in that respect.

Somehow they managed to draw the game back to even in the closing seconds with a spirited finish. Two free throws with 4.6 seconds left by the cold-blooded true-freshman Lamar Stevens tied the game. It seemed like we were headed to overtime before Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. beat the buzzer with a game-winning 3-pt shot.

This was a road-win that Indiana badly needed, and the Lions shouldn’t hang their heads after this one. With a trip to Purdue looming, they won’t have time to. Many had already written them off in this game, but they game back and nearly won it. If nothing else, this is more proof that this team can hang with anyone in the Big Ten this year.

Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 71 1.07 50.0% 35.5% 19.7% 47.3%
Nebraska - 0.94 39.5% 34.0% 11.3% 13.2%

Despite being the less efficient shooting team, PSU nearly pulled this game off thanks to earning twice as many trips to the free throw line (31 to IU’s 15) and winning the turnover battle (only 11 to IU’s 17). If the Lions had converted a few more of their FT’S (PSU made 21 of their 31 attempts) and avoided a few careless turnovers, there might have been a happier ending to this game.

Player of the Game - Tony Carr (24 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists)

He didn’t shoot lights out from the floor, and had a handful of missed layups that he’ll be dissatisfied with, but Tony carried the team offensively when they were struggling to find buckets. Foul trouble early seemed to take Stevens and Watkins off their game, and so Carr stepped up - and he did so smartly. Getting into the paint and drawing fouls, Carr did most of his damage at the foul line where he shot 10-11, but also hit some crucial 3’s.

Random Observations

  • Nazeer Bostick again showed flashes of the potential player he can be. He nearly had a highlight reel finish that was negated by a called foul, and had an athletic block on the other end.
  • The crowd in the BJC was looking for a reason to get loud whenever Penn State drew close or made a good play. It may not strike fear into opponents, but the Bryce Jordan Center has showed some life in the last two home games.
  • Paging Mr. Moore: Julian scored the first six points of the game, and then went scoreless until the final 4 minutes of the game. He finished the game 3-3 from the field and added 2 free throws. With Watkins struggling tonight, the team can’t afford to let Julian disappear like that. Granted it was a tough matchu-up down low for the junior.
  • Free throw struggles: Penn State went 11-20 from the FT line when you take away Tony Carr’s contributions. This was an uncharacteristic lapse, and costly even though Stevens came through with 2 huge shots in the closing seconds.

Up Next

Penn State will travel to West Lafayette to play Purdue on Saturday at noon.