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Penn State 77, Indiana 73: Lions Answer Any, All Doubters in Semifinal Win

The Bus Isn’t On Fire, But This Team Is

Penn State v Indiana Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Penn State took punch after punch in Saturday’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal against Indiana.

But the Lions answered every single one, clinching the program’s second ever appearance in the Big Ten title game with a 77-73 win against the No. 3 seed and No. 19 ranked Hoosiers.

Midway through the second half, the Hoosiers clawed their way back from what was once a 12-point deficit, but the Lions answered with a 7-0 run highlighted by Kebba Njie’s dunk off a feed from Cam Wynter.

In fact, Penn State actually pushed the lead all the way to 15 that included clutch 3-pointers from Wynter and Andrew Funk before a furious Hoosier rally saw Indiana actually wind up with a chance to tie. However, Jalen Hood-Schifino’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds came up short, as did Indiana’s attempt at a comeback.

In a battle of All-Americans, Jalen Pickett was special, scoring 28 points to lead the Nittany Lions who earned a season sweep over the Trayce Jackson-Davis led Hoosiers.

Penn State controlled much of the first half following a shaky start.

Indiana went right at Jalen Pickett on defense by featuring Race Thompson who scored three quick baskets to help the Hoosiers to a 12-6 lead at the first TV timeout.

But that break changed the complexion of the game as Penn State answered with a 13-0 run that included 3-point makes from Pickett, Funk and Dread and was capped by Pickett scoring over IU’s All-American and telling him that he was too small.

However, the major difference in the half was on the defensive end where Micah Shrewsberry made a couple of adjustments in how, when, and where to send doubles at Jackson-Davis. The result was a lot of midrange misses from IU players not accustomed to doing much more than shoot spot up 3-pointers.

Behind Pickett, Penn State pushed the lead as high as 12 thanks to a prolonged 22-4 run. The Lions held the Hoosiers without a 3-point make in the game’s first half and Pickett helped shake Penn State out of a late first-half lull with four of his 13 first-half points coming in the final moments as they led 34-26.

Player of the Game

Jalen Pickett - 28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists

There are a lot of game balls to go around, but Pickett certainly showed why he is an All-American with Saturday’s performance. He consistently had the ball in late-clock situations and consistently made the right decision. In what was the game’s biggest stretch, Pickett shook off a couple of untypical airballs on short-range shots to score back-to-back baskets and help Penn State regain control in the second half.

Random Observations

Living with the 3 - Penn State shot the ball extremely well in its January win against the Hoosiers. The 3’s (there were eight of them) came in bursts on Saturday, but Indiana had clearly made an effort to slow Penn State’s 3-point shooting. But on the other end, the Lions did a fantastic job of hounding shooters as Indiana went just 2-of-14 from 3-point range.

Free Throws! - The foul line very nearly cost Penn State in Friday’s overtime quarterfinal win against Northwestern. Apparently, the Lions had a goal installed at their hotel. Penn State went 23-of-26 at the line on Saturday and needed every one of them to hold on against IU’s last-minute pressure.

Defensive Adjustments - With coaching rumors popping up on the internet, Penn State’s coaching staff had the Lions as locked in defensively as they’ve been all year. The Lions did their best to force the ball out of Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino’s hands. The guys with non-hyphenated names struggled to make winning plays for the Hoosiers.

Least Valuable Players of the Game - How about the CBS broadcast crew? Penn State got the national treatment and, well, when you’re Penn State - you get the typical national treatment. Jim Nantz couldn’t stop talking about 1991. Grant Hill couldn’t stop talking about himself. And Bill Raftery is showing his age. Meanwhile, it took them a full half to realize that Penn State has an All-American on its side, too.

More Game Balls - Go right down the line of Penn State’s roster. Lundy. Wynter. Clary. Dread. Funk. Njie. They all made significant contributions in one of the biggest Penn State wins ever.

Next Up

Penn State tries to do what it’s never done - win a Big Ten basketball championship. It will be a…tall task as waiting on the other side is regular season champ Purdue and their National Player of the Year candidate Zack Edey. The history between Shrewsberry and Purdue is well known as in the three years prior to coming to Happy Valley, Penn State’s head coach worked as an assistant for the Boilermakers. He’ll do something he hasn’t done yet - beat the Boilers and former boss Matt Painter. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. and will once again be on CBS.