After dismantling No. 17 Purdue (13-5, 4-3) on Friday, No. 1 Penn State (18-1, 8-0) trounced unranked Indiana, (8-12, 0-8) 3-1, on the court Saturday, but not without overcoming adversity.
Indiana’s attack percentage for the season is .219, while Penn State’s is .309. Indiana has 439 errors and Penn State has 280.
Every single statistical advantage belongs to the Nittany Lions, and while most teams would celebrate a 3-1 victory against an in-conference opponent, the postgame press conference held a rather somber atmosphere as compared to most.
Coach Russ Rose said Indiana gave his team a tough match for a couple of reasons and said his players might not have “respected the game that Indiana plays.”
“It wasn’t one of our cleaner games … but I think we have some difficulty with teams that play hard,” Rose said.
In front of the nearly 3,400 onlookers in Rec Hall, the Lions were shocked by the Hoosiers in the first set, losing 25-22.
The Lions were plagued by errors in that set, registering 13 to the Hoosiers’ eight, including three service errors from 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Micah Hancock.
The normally lethal combination of right-side hitter Ariel Scott and middle hitter Nia Grant also started out stale, with the two combining for one kill and Scott boasting a -.125 hitting percentage.
“I thought Nia wasn’t ready to play at the start of the game and made two or three mistakes,” Rose said. “It’s a long season, and a couple kids are beat up, and they’re not fresh. I wasn’t too high on a couple kids’ efforts today.”
With Grant, Scott and Hancock failing to deliver the points they can usually be relied on for, 2011 All-American Deja McClendon picked up her performance in the first set with eight kills.
As the match waned into the later sets, McClendon’s hitting percentage shrunk to .179 — luckily, Scott’s performance peaked in the middle sets while McClendon’s plunged.
Scott finished the match with a team-leading 14 kills, and when asked if she could put her thumb on any specific thing contributing to her slow start, Scott bluntly said no.
“I think after the first set, I definitely knew I needed to play better, and when people are playing bad, the team can’t win,” Scott said. “It’s not good to start out slow, so I need to work on that.”
Likewise, Grant improved by the game’s end, showcasing a team-leading .429 hitting percentage and team-leading seven block assists.
Meanwhile, Hancock surrendered just one more service error after the first set and led the match with 40 assists, possibly putting her in position to win Big Ten Setter of the Week for the fourth time in 2012.
After the game, Rose kept consistent in his statements about taking every opponent seriously, despite their record, like Indiana.
“Whether they deserve to have the record they have right now, I don’t know,” Rose said. “I wish my team played a little harder, but I thought we blocked OK, I thought Micah’s defense was improved.”
“But I think we’ve got some issues that maybe they’ll get fixed, maybe they won’t.”