WHAT HAPPENED: For the second time in three weeks, Indiana beat Penn State by exactly 23 points. The No. 7 Hoosiers won 72-49 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall, holding an opponent under 50 points for the first time since beating Sam Houston State 99-45 on Nov. 15.
The Hoosiers opened the game with a 7-0 run, led 33-19 at halftime and got an 8-0 run to start the second half that effectively buried Penn State, getting 3-pointers from point guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls and a layup by junior guard Victor Oladipo in the first 1:05 of the second half. They led 41-19 with 18:55 to go in the second half and never led by fewer than 17 points the rest of the way. The lead spiked at 25.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Junior guard Victor Oladipo had 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals and knocked down two 3-pointers. Oladipo’s outside shot was not long ago considered the weakest part of his game, but he’s now hit 12 of his last 14 from beyond the arc since Dec. 15.
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell had the best shooting night of his career. He finished with a career-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting. That included a 3-for-4 night from beyond the arc. He came into the game shooting 8-for-33 from 3 for the season.
Junior swingman Will Sheehey broke out of a mini-slump as well with 12 points, including three 3-pointers. He drilled back-to-back 3’s in the first half that gave Indiana a double-digit lead in this one for good and smashed up the Penn State zone.
Senior forward Christian Watford added 10 points and senior guard Jordan Hulls had eight, including a pair of 3-pointers. All of that made up for just two points from preseason All-American Cody Zeller, who the Nittany Lions based almost their entire defensive scheme around stopping.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Nittany Lions spent almost the entirety of the game in a 2-3 zone designed to pack the paint to keep Zeller from getting the ball. That mostly worked. The Nittany Lions were also cognizant of Hulls and Watford, who came into the game ranked first and third respectively in 3-pointers made. They made sure that just about all of the looks those two had were contested.
However, that meant Ferrell, Oladipo and Sheehey got open looks and they took full advantage of those. The Hoosiers got good dribble penetration and ball reversal. They got the ball into the lane and they got it back out, and they made 11 of 20 3-pointers and also went to the line 37 times. They only made 21 of those 37, which is a concern, but the fact that they were drawing so much contact and spending so much time at the charity stripe is a good sign for the Hoosiers.
Defensively, the Hoosiers were nearly as good as they were the last time they played Penn State. Ferrell, and Oladipo did a good job of making life difficult on sophomore point guard D.J. Newbill, attacking his right hand and forcing him to try to go to his left. Newbill finished with 18 points, but he needed 17 shots to get there and also committed eight turnovers. Junior guard Jermaine Marshall managed 12 points, but he was the only other Penn State player in double figures. The Nittany Lions shot 33.3 percent from the field (17-for-51) and just 2-for-15 from beyond the 3-point arc while turning the ball over 18 times. The Nittany Lions only had five assists against those 18 turnovers.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Hoosiers were favored big over the Nittany Lions, who fall to 0-7 in conference play with this loss, so in some respects, Indiana did nothing more than beat up on one of the most overmatched teams in the conference, a group that is still dealing with the loss of its best player, Tim Frazier. Still, it’s good to avoid a toe-stubbing, and the win is a confidence builder for a number of reasons, especially on an individual level.
It was a huge game for Yogi Ferrell, who was shooting just 34.9 percent from the field and 24.2 percent from the arc coming into the game. The progress in his jump shot has been slow but steady, and he now seems to at least be the above average shooter he was at Park Tudor. His mid-range pull-up game has become a legitimate weapon in recent weeks, and its been critical for him to see a few 3-pointers go down to give him confidence. On the flip side, it also lets opponents know thaey have to defend him that far out, and that might make it easier to blow by overly eager defenders on the dribble-drive.
Will Sheehey might not be a man prone to self doubt — and he certainly wouldn’t say if he was — but it was still helpful for him to see some shots go down while also playing like his energetic self. His performance against Northwestern was mostly strong, but this one was much closer to vintage Sheehey, and that was helpful to the Hoosiers as well.
Strong defensive efforts always help, but it was also big for Indiana to put together two solid halves of basketball, even against an overmatched opponent. They had only “won” the second half once in Big Ten play, and even that half at Penn State was downright hideous on both sides. This performance was much closer to complete, and it sends IU into Sunday’s critical matchup with Michigan State with a strong feeling about itself.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“The thing that I look at with our team is that they are really trying to put themselves in a place where they can hang their hat on the defensive end, and we’re getting there. The other day we told them that there are two teams in the country in the top 10 in field goal percentage defense and field goal percentage offense, and we’re one of them. We want to stay in that position. Right now, the biggest thing we can work on is making sure that we are getting better as individual defenders, collective defenders, that our rebounding continues to improve, and that we keep turning defense into offense. … The bottom line is that you’ve got to be able to defend. I think that tonight with 64 deflections, holding them to 13 percent from the three, 33 percent from the field, we had three guys with double-figure deflections with Cody, Victor and Jordan and Will had nine. Those are good things, those are really good things for us.”
“We’re trying to integrate a lot of different guys into the lineup at different times. Its easier said than done That’s why I know that we are going to keep getting better, because eventually some of those things are going to click.”
On getting so much 3-point production from Ferrell, Oladipo and Sheehey:
“I think it’s big. It will never be a one-on-one game for Cody in the post. They’re always going to build around stopping him, but it allows him more freedom, a little more movement. He can go to the rim quicker. There’s no doubt he can catch it a little deeper and not wait for the cutter to come through, and that’s something he’s gotta continue to get better at, but the ball moved. The ball moved at a really high level. It reversed. Sometimes for us, just one reversal is really good. Two and three is unbelievable. But when it’s moving even to that second side and not staying on the first side, it gives these guys space and time and they can drive the ball. But again, they just work so hard on their shooting, I think we’ll continue to get better there.”
On the bench
“I wanted to get Maurice in. Maurice has still not had a full practices, but he’s practiced longer. … I thought he did a nice job. I think the big thing now is that he’s gotta be come for us one of those shot makers. We know that he can do it. He stayed on the court tonight because he defended and he had really good energy. And he didn’t let a miss here or there affect him, and that’s crucial, but we’re also going to need him to make shots for us.”
“I think that’s who Will is. I think that’s what Will brings. I think that’s his game. I think his energy and his passion. He was very, very good defensively. I thought he was extremely good on Sunday at Northwestern even though it wasn’t a box score good necessarily, but it was a very, very strong game from him. He’s one of our best players. He really is. He’s an excellent shooter. He reads the game well, and that’s how he played tonight.”
On his shooting evolution:
“I was just getting in the gym. Especially with these guys Vic and Will (Sheehey), they have tremendous work ethic. They’ll pull me along with them to get extra shots up. That’s what we’re always doing after practice.”
On Yogi Ferrell
“He can shoot. “It was all in his head at first, but he’s finally realizing that he can shoot the ball. A lot of the players were just coming off and they were just leaving him. I’m not just going to not kick to him and he knows that. He gets ready to shoot and it’s very hard for him to miss when he gets going and the confidence gets going and it all pours in after that.”
“Points don’t win games, it’s your defensive effort,” Sheehey said. “When you talk and are active on defense, that’s what propels winning. I think we did a fantastic job tonight. … When you play defense, when you talk, when you have a complete defensive effort, you’re not going to lose.”
On shots not falling in recent games
“I never think about that kind of stuff as long as I’m playing hard on the defensive end.If you ever see me not playing hard on the defensive end, that’s when you know something is wrong and it’s never going to happen. The offense will come. The ball finds movement. The ball finds activity, so if you just keep moving these guys will find me. I’m not worried about it.”