Hoosiers end slump, down Penn State 73-54

For a day, at least, Indiana got back on its feet.

Thanks to a brilliant second-half defensive performance, the Hoosiers rallied from a five-point first-half deficit and beat Penn State by a comfortable 73-54 margin in front of 17,248 at Assembly Hall. The victory ends a three-game losing streak and gives Indiana (16-4 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten) enough victories to assure that they will finish their 31-game regular season schedule with a winning record for the first time in the Tom Crean era.

Indiana coach Tom Crean said that he thought coming into the game that his team was playing with the right mindset. That it wasn’t panicking but recognized where it needed to make adjustments, and it did.

“We got better over the last couple of days,” Crean said. “And it showed today.”

Especially on the defensive end. Indiana came into the game ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring defense in conference games and second to last in field goal percentage defense. Penn State became the Hoosiers’ first Big Ten opponent to fail to score at least 70 points. The Nittany Lions shot just 34.0 percent (17-for-50), including just 22.7 percent (5-for-22) in the second half, when they were outscored 46-25.

“Defense,” junior guard Jordan Hulls said. “Defensive pressure by Victor (Oladipo) and just the core group of guys, five guys out there playing good team defense and just getting good stops and turning it into offense. That’s really all it was.”

Oladipo’s ball pressure was what was most important. In the first half, the Hoosiers played mostly 2-3 zone, and Penn State star junior guard Tim Frazier got in the lane to cause havoc, knocking down floaters and finding shooters on the perimeter. In the second half, the Hoosiers went back to man-to-man, using mostly Oladipo and fellow sophomore guard Will Sheehey on Frazier to try to keep him out of the lane.

Frazier, who accounts for more of his team’s offense than any other player in the Big Ten, still managed 21 points, but was 7-for-18 from the field and managed only one assist. Forward Nick Colella was the only other Penn State player to score in double figures with 11 points, as Frazier found it harder late in the game to get his teammates open looks.

Sunday’s game represented a much better defensive performance by Oladipo than Wednesday’s against Bo Spencer, who is the second most used player in the Big Ten. Spencer scored 23 points in that game, and Oladipo got caught on ball fakes and sometimes helped off when he shouldn’t have.

“I think I was just more active today,” Oladipo said. “Just a little more active than I was against Spencer and Nebraska. I was just determined.”

Said Crean: “Vic is so anxious to make plays and to  cover and he’s very good at covering for his teammates. Tonight there was one job in the second half. We mixed our coverages but there was one job. (Frazier) can’t get the ball once he gives it up. You’re not gonna stop him from having the ball because he’s gonna bring it up. But the key is that you make it as hard as possible for him to get it back. I don’t know if he learned this from the other night, but the thing he’s gotta continue to learn is that great defenders can do different things at the time of need and great defenders can do the hard things all the time.”

Offensively, the Hoosiers struggled early, but softened Penn State’s man-to-man and zone defenses with five second-half threes.  Freshman forward Cody Zeller scored 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Hulls scored 14 points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and all six of his free throws, and also registered three assists and no turnovers. Junior forward Christian Watford had 11 points and seven rebounds and Oladipo and Sheehey scored eight points each.

“When you’re hitting outside shots, it opens things up for the post,” Hulls said. “Backdoors, Cody posting up making plays. It definitely helps a lot when you’re hitting 3’s and it’s always good to hit those anyway. Just playing inside-out, it’s what we like to do and just moving the ball around, that’s when we’re at our best.”

Sheehey was ejected late in the game with his second technical foul after a fracas erupted in front of the Indiana bench. Watford was fouled hard by Glover on a 3-pointer with six seconds left with a small difference between the shot clock and the game clock. Indiana’s coaches kept it from escalating much beyond words, but Sheehey, who was on the bench at the time, starting pushing towards the floor and shouted an expletive at a Penn State player. IU director of operations Calbert Cheaney restrained him (with what looked like a head lock) but he and Penn State’s Ross Travis were both assessed technical fouls.

Crean said he did not expect the ejection to turn into a suspension for Sheehey.

“To my knowledge, there will be no changes to Will’s status,” he said. “There were no punches thrown or anything like that. It wasn’t considered a fight. It was more verbal than anything else. We’ve already talked about that internally and I don’t anticipate anything there. It’s just a maturity process. It’s a heated battle. All I was trying to do was play NFL head-linemsan, make sure I get myself right in the middle of it when the referees were in there. It’s just part of the game.”

Penn State wore what appeared to be black electrical tape over the shoulder straps of their jerseys in honor of former football coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday morning. There was a moment of silence in his honor as well.

Crean talked about meeting Paterno and having dinner with him once at Big Ten meetings.

“How much can you capitalize the word, ‘Legend,'” Crean said.

AUDIO: Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 1

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 2

11 comments

  1. While I’m glad no punches were thrown, I’m also glad Will Sheehey stood up for his teammate. Good for him. I like these guys standing up for each other.

  2. Collective sigh of relief. Now, we should take a look at the rest of the schedule with revised expectations. The last non conference game will guarantee a 17th win. However, beyond that, I’d say that every Big 10 game is up for grabs.

    With 6 more home games, I think we should get a minimum of 4 more conference wins which would give us 21 overall, a huge leap for this team whose ceiling was probably seen as an NIT trip before the season started.

    Our tournament portfolio continues to look better and better thanks to NC State and Notre Dame.

    Given our rebounding and defensive issues it remains very iffy if we can win another one on the road. But if we can, then @ Iowa seems to be our best chance. They have our number of late, though, and they are a very annoying team to deal with.

  3. This was a good win for Indiana. Showed lots of improvement in lots of aspects today. Everyone played well I thought — great team effort. As much criticism as Hulls and Jones have gotten for turnovers, I hope they get some kudos for ZERO turnovers today. Great job, guys! Onward and upward, Hoosiers!

  4. Po so do I. That is as it should be. I am also sure you observed every time a player from PSU hit the floor his teammates ran to him. That cohesiveness has been instilled by Pat Chambers.

  5. Hey Boomer, is that what the official stats say.
    I thought Hulls dribbled to the right sideline, stopped short of the timeline, picked up his dribble, and forced a pass throgh two defenders. I would say they had few turnovers. Does anyone else think Zeller had kind of a bad day today? Seriously, and he still was just two pts. shy of a triple double. Amazing.

  6. Disgraceful officiating.I thought we played 30 solid minutes in Nebraska.Here we played a very solid 2nd half.Happy to see better games from Hulls,Oladipo.This team really needs most players playing well.Sheehey’s explosiveness has been missed and tonite was on display.Elston had some big rebounds but those last two plays,must be maddening for a coach to watch.

  7. I love sports and games,at this time it’s my desired to watch the games live in Indiana,for my enjoyment and fun with my friends,but i am looking for discount and an affordable tickets rates to join this sports game at this time in Indiana.

  8. Mass.Hoosier, yep, that’s what the official stats say – zero TO’s for both Jones and Hulls. I remember that play with Hulls you’re talking about but can’t remember the outcome. If it was a TO, maybe they charged it to someone else. Don’t know. My only point is that they both did much, much better today with not turning the ball over — something we’ve all been saying we wanted to see so I hope they get some kudos for improving on that in this game.

  9. Boomer, I think the pass was intended for Jones. And I believe it was a jump ball ? Not a turnover. Possesion arrow IU. But you are right, they valued, and took care of the ball much, much better. Easier to win looking good when you don’t spot the team 10+ pts off of turnovers. What was Jones minutes ? Nice observation, I overlooked it.

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