When you can hold a team 14 points below its season average, a close game is usually expected.
However, Penn State found itself overmatched against No. 5 Indiana despite a solid defensive effort. The Nittany Lions fell to the Hoosiers, 74-51, in their home conference opener.
Penn State picked up its second straight Big Ten loss in as many games as the Hoosiers’ size and quickness proved overwhelming.
“You can’t let missing shots dictate your effort, especially against a great team like [Indiana],” coach Pat Chambers said. “If you tell me we’re going to hold Indiana to 74 points, I’m going to tell you we’re in the game.”
The top-ranked scoring offense in the Big Ten lived up to its reputation in the early going as Indiana jumped out on an early 13-3 run. Even with the quick scoring, Indiana coach Tom Crean attributed the fast start to his team’s ability to defend
“We were moving things around defensively, no question I think our defense keyed a lot of that,” Crean said. “We did different things schematically and brought pressure from different places but our guys were really locked in.”
Hoosier forward Christian Watford was the biggest matchup problem for Penn State. The 6-foot-9 senior scored 16 points, 13 coming in the first half. He hurt the Lions both inside and out, despite Chambers calling on a number of players to defend him. Sasa Borovnjak, Ross Travis and Nick Collela all took turns trying to stop Watford to no avail.
Hoosier’s leading scorer Cody Zeller proved efficient both inside and in transition. The 7-footer finished with 15 points with a number of dunks against the Lion’s undersized inside.
“It’s not one guy, it’s eight or nine guys,” Chambers said. “They’re a very good team. There’s a reason they’re top five in the country. We have to do what we do and play Penn State basketball to the best of our ability. Watford is a very good player. He shoots threes, he posts up he does a little bit of everything.”
After getting dominated in the first half, Penn State settled down in the second. The Lions created turnovers and played the Hoosiers close — they were outscored just 30-24.
Despite the defensive effort, the Lions could not generate offense, shooting a lowly 31.7 percent on 19-for-60 overall compared to Indiana’s 52.4 percent (22-42). The Lions attempted more shots then points scored.
“It’s the same thing every time, we have to get stops and we’ve got to rebound,” redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall said. “We did that in the beginning of the second half, but on the other end we came down and turned the ball over.”
Turnovers devastated both sides and prevented the Lions’ offense from gathering any type of momentum. Penn State finished gave it away 19 times on the day, and the two teams combined for 23 turnovers in the second half alone.
On a night when leading scorer D.J. Newbill struggled with just eight points on an ugly 3-for-15 shooting, Travis and Marshall stepped up for the Lions. Travis dropped 14 points with five rebounds, but on just 6-for-17 shooting. Marshall was the most consistent player on the floor for Penn State, contributing 11 points.
The Lions will look to redeem themselves at home against Northwestern on Thursday at 8 p.m.
“We have to move on to Northwestern and forget about it,” Marshall said. “We can’t really change much. We can only move on and get better and that’s the plan for practice tomorrow.”