WHAT HAPPENED: With a strong defensive effort and four scorers in double figures, Indiana easily held on despite a miserable second half to beat Penn State 74-51 in front of 9,386 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.
The Hoosiers went on a 15-3 lead to start the game and never really looked back. They were up 31-13 by the 9:41 mark in the first half, and Penn State was never again closer than 12 points, despite the fact that the Hoosiers turned the ball over 12 times in the second half and attempted just 15 field goals.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Senior forward Christian Watford played perhaps his most aggressive game in recent weeks, attacking the rim on the game’s first possession and scoring inside and out to finish with 16 points and eight rebounds, knocking down three 3-pointers and also dishing out two assists.
Senior guard Jordan Hulls found his shooting groove again after an 0-for-10 outing at Iowa on Monday. He was 4-for-6 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers and 14 points.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller finished with 15 points and five rebounds, but was even more important on defense than offense. He finished with two blocks and four steals, including one steal in the backcourt that led to an easy fast-breakdunk. Junior guard Victor Oladipo also finished with 10 points.
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell scored just one point and was 0-for-5 from the field, but he may have been one of the game’s most important players. He drew the assignment of Penn State’s top perimeter option, point guard D.J. Newbill, stuck on his right hand and held him to 3-for-15 shooting and just eight points and three assists against five turnovers.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Nittany Lions are noticeably short-handed with All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier, their do-everything player a year ago, out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. That leaves Penn State without a lot of firepower, and Indiana took full advantage of that fact.
Though he was giving up four inches or possibly more to Newbill, Ferrell hounded the sophomore transfer from Southern Mississippi, taking away his right-hand whenever he could. The Hoosiers also did a brilliant job of helping on any and all occasions when Ferrell got beat and also did a solid job of trapping off of ball screens, making it difficult for Newbill or anyone else to make their lives easier that way. Zeller was very strong in that regard, protecting the rim but also hedging and trapping hard in the backcourt to create turnovers.
The Hoosiers had major offensive issues in the second half, missing free throws and turning the ball over, but it didn’t matter because the defense was strong throughout and Penn State was never able to capitalize on the opportunities they did have. The Nittany Lions actually won the rebounding battle with 35 rebounds to Indiana’s 33 and 17 offensive boards, but they managed just 14 second-chance points and often missed from point-blank range. Penn State shot just 31.7 percent from the field, including 28.6 percent in the second half.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Hoosiers got back-to-back Big Ten road wins for the first time since 2008. Penn State’s cavernous Bryce Jordan center was just over half-full according to attendance figures and didn’t look or sound that well-populated. Point being, there are clearly tougher places to win on the road than State College, but all the same, the Hoosiers have begun their season with two road victories, and it’s become quite evident that there won’t be many easy road victories this season. Still, the Hoosiers also showed some vulnerabilities they will have to sure up by Saturday’s home game against Minnesota, a very athletic outfit and a strong rebounding team. The Golden Gophers were the only team to beat the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall last year.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“Extremely proud of our team’s effort defensively, on the road, to come in and hold a team under 32 percent shooting. … Bottom line is we defended for 40 minutes. The 3-point line. We game-planned hard for Newbill, for Marshall, for Taylor, for Collella. We could’ve done a better job on Travis for sure. We had some plans for their inside game, and our guys were extremely locked in to that. They were extremely locked in, and learned another valuable lesson in the sense that even sometimes when your shot’s not there, or when your free throw isn’t there, or when your decision making’s not there, as long as your defense is there, you’ve got a chance to continue to stay in the game.”
On Yogi Ferrell’s defense
“Extremely happy. Yogi’s drawing big assignments. D.J. Newbill is really good. When you start to think that he’s a sophomore, I mean, he’s really good. When you start to think that he’s a sophomore, I mean, he’s really good. He’s got some serious strengths. Our job was to do the best job we could do to not let him get to those. A lot of things obviously run through him and run through Marshall. They’re both very, very good players. … Yogi Ferrell is the epitome of somebody that’s been well-coached, a disciplined player that has great speed and quickness and just a presence and really, really wants to be a good defender, a big-time defender.’
On Christian Watford
“We wanted to get him going,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We went to him right off the bat. We felt that that was a big part of our game plan and he responded. … We want him to hunt offense by movement and reading what’s there. I think he did a great job of that, whether it was getting to the rim, whether it was making 3’s, the post-up game. He did an extremely good job, and he was one of our catalysts defensively.”
On Jordan Hulls
“I thought he really, really went to his pull-up tonight rather than shooting a floater or a push runner. There’s a place for that, but he’s got such a great shot, that you want to make sure that he’s getting that last bounce, that he’s getting his hand through the ball, that his follow through is good, and he did that, and he had that kind of week.”
On the turnovers
“Those were self-inflicted. Those were unforced errors, and they were errors of guys trying to make plays. I don’t think it was trying to do too much. We didn’t trust a couple of things. We didn’t get out there and sprint. It almost was like a 3-on-2 fastbreak drill in practice, which is not always the best. We want to be out running.”
On guarding D.J. Newbill
“I knew which way he wanted to go,” Ferrell said. “He’s a right-hand dominant player, so I just pretty much take that away. … I just took away his right-hand pretty much, and it worked out for the best.”
“My teammates put a lot of confidence in me, and they knew last game was difficult. It happens, so we were able to get through that. They had my back with that, and just seeing the first one fall was pretty good.”