Indiana gets first Big Ten win of 2013-14 season

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana overcame a 15-point first half deficit to escape with a 79-76 victory over Penn State in front of 8,079 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.

The Hoosiers got their first true road victory of the season and their first Big Ten victory to improve to 11-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten. Penn State fell to 9-8, 0-4.

Penn State opened the game with a 17-4 run and took a 31-16 lead with 9:15 to go in the first half. The Nittany Lions were still up 37-25 with 4:08 to go in the half, but a 12-4 run allowed the Hoosiers to cut it to 41-35 at the break. The Hoosiers opened the second-half with a 15-5 run and took a 52-46 lead and later led 59-53, but Penn State erased those lead quickly and neither team had more than a one-possession lead in the final 6:27.

Penn State took a 68-65 advantage on a 3-pointer by Pittsburgh transfer John Johnson, but senior forward Jeff Howard battled for two offensive rebounds on one possession and hit a free throw to make it 68-66. Senior guard Evan Gordon hit two free throws to tie the game 68-68. Penn State’s Tim Frazier hit two free throws and IU freshman forward Noah Vonleh dunked off a pick-and-roll to make it 70-70.

Penn State guard D.J. Newbill hit two free throws to make it 72-70, but IU redshirt sophomore forward Austin Etherington hit a huge 3-pointer to make it 73-72. Indiana led the rest of the way and Vonleh and sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell hit a combined six free throws in the final minute to allow the Hoosiers to keep the lead. Newbill kept it a one-possession game with two field goals in the final minute, but he also missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Etherington’s 3-pointer was the tide-turning play of the game. The redshirt sophomore swingman was recruited to Indiana in large part to hit 3-pointers (it also helped that he helped recruit Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell and Hanner Mosquera-Perea, but shooting was expected to be his on-court role.) That hadn’t gone so well to date and he was just 5-for-20 from beyond the 3-point arc for his career. Saturday’s 3-pointer was his biggest shot as a collegian. He shot-faked to get Penn State’s Ross Travis to fly by him on the close out and drilled three.

Noah Vonleh demonstrated the demanding presence IU coach Tom Crean had been asking for, making five of nine field goals and seven of eight free throws to finish with 19 points as well as six rebounds. He got established early by scoring Indiana’s first 12 points. He made more of a point to face up in this game than in recent games, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and getting a lot accomplished away from the basket.

Ferrell struggled to make shots, but he also played through it. He finished with 15 points and seven assists against one turnover. The 15 points weren’t efficient as he was just 4-for-15 from the field and 2-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc, but the 3-pointers came at important junctures. He hit one with 49 seconds left in the first half to cut Penn State’s lead to 40-37 and he hit another to give Indiana its 59-53 lead with 7:38 left. He was also 5-for-6 at the free throw line with the last four helping clinch the game.

Freshman guard Stanford Robinson had nine points and four rebounds though he was 3-for-10. Freshman swingman Troy Williams had been struggling, but he posted eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Senior guard Evan Gordon had eight points and four rebounds in his first start of the season, and senior forward Jeff Howard scored four points and grabbed three critical offensive rebounds in six second-half minutes, filling in for Vonleh when he got into foul trouble and then when he was abused by Penn State’s Ross Travis on consecutive possessions. Howard alternate defense-offense for Vonleh down the stretch and was mostly effective.

Newbill led all scorers with 24 points.Travis had 13 points and eight rebounds for Penn State and senior guard Tim Frazier scored 10 points, but also fouled out with 49 seconds left.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers fell behind because of defensive miscues, and they got back into the game because they mostly corrected those.

Penn State hit its first five field goals and was shooting 9-for-18 from the field with five 3-pointers by the time the Nittany Lions took a 31-16 advantage with 9:15 to go. Indiana was leaving shooters in both man-to-man and zone defenses. The Nittany Lions were getting open looks and burying them.

The Hoosiers come back came in large part because they simply stopped allowing those open shots. In the last 29 minutes of the game, they surrendered just three 3-pointers. Penn State was 8-for-23 from beyond the arc for the game, but just 2-for-9 from three in the second half. The Hoosiers were OK inside the line with Penn State shooting 43.6 percent from the field, but taking the 3-pointers out of the game helped a lot. Indiana also made it more difficult for the Lions to score on second-chance points in the second half. In the first, Penn State managed 11. In the second, just four.

Indiana struggled to shoot the ball throughout the game, finishing 36.2 percent from the field (21-for-58), but they hit five extremely important threes in the second half. When the Hoosiers weren’t making shots, though, they were drawing fouls and making free throws. Penn State committed 28 fouls, and the Hoosiers made 29 of 35 free throws, including six down stretch.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The win is a positive because of how the Hoosiers got it. It was on some level a confidence booster to play as poorly as they did early, but keep it together, not let the game get away on the road and battle back to get a close, Big Ten win. This team and especially these freshmen had not won in someone else’s venue before, and that’s the sort of victory that can spawn a substantial amount of growth.

The biggest value of the victory, though, is that it saves them from the devastating pain a loss would have inflicted. This game is not likely to show up as what might be considered a quality win on Indiana’s ledger come NCAA Tournament selection time, but a defeat would have surely been considered a major blight on their resume and that wasn’t that far from happening. It also could have sent the Hoosiers on a downward spiral. Indiana plays at home against No. 4 Wisconsin on Tuesday in a game that might require a miracle to begin with and would’ve been even more problematic if the Hoosiers were coming off a loss. So had they dropped this one, they could be staring 0-4 in the Big Ten in the face and the season might have gotten out of control pretty quickly. Even though this victory wasn’t pretty and it won’t look that shiny in March, it’s much nicer for the Hoosiers than a loss would’ve been.

NOTE: Crean said that the reason Jeremy Hollowell didn’t play was because he needs to “build focus.” He indicated that he was available to play, but Crean was clearly trying to send a message. Based on what exactly, it’s difficult to tell.

WHO SAID WHAT: We’re going to go straight audio today.

AUDIO: Pat Chambers

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Austin Etherington, Yogi Ferrell, Noah Vonleh, Jeff Howard

15 comments

  1. “Based on what exactly, it’s difficult to tell.” Dustin, are you serious? Hollowell has played poorly most of the season. I think the message is, “Play poorly and you don’t play.” That’s not so difficult to figure out.

  2. Jeremy H= Poor play, poor focus, poor effort, poor enthusiasm, poor team work, poor prioriorities, poor body language. I’m telling you Hollowell is a more nonchalant version of a young Watford. CWat, to the joy of many, finally “got it” late in his junior year. Sorta realized that basketball takes work and maybe he wasn’t “bigger than the team” Hollowell legit appears to think he is about 60x better than he is, but doesn’t give half the effort he needs to. Many saw this from him in HS. I rooted for him last yr but not this yr. was very glad Crean didn’t play him. He’s unneeded anyway, especially as a sulker. Etherington is the exact opposite of Hollo, AE gave off negative vibes galore as a HS player but appears to be nothing but a great teammate and steady role player at IU, kudos to AE. Hollowell should adjust or move on.

  3. Yes Fab5 I agree with the benching of JH. AE has changed his mind set from HS and nothing could be better for his confidence and future success than the time he played against PSU.

    Have to hand out some compliments to Geoff for recognizing early on how good Stanford Robinson can be. I just started to recognize it about 4-5 weeks ago but Geoff was many weeks ahead.

  4. Alan,
    I didn’t make that point very well in the blog, but it’s less that I can’t see why Hollowell should be benched and more that the change in tone is jarring. As of Monday night’s radio show, Crean’s approach was “stick with him,” and he said that “the fans don’t see the work ethic of this kid,” saying that he puts in a lot more work and has a much better attitude than fans recognize. Certainly his numbers are bad, but they’ve been bad. I’m just interested in where the turning point was between Monday and Saturday.

  5. Crean takes kids and ruins them. They transfer. He did that with Jordan Crawford. He did that with Nick Williams (who came here for Crean, who recruited him when he was at MU) and Malik Stroy, Bawa, Mo Creek, Luke Fischer. “Stick with him” fans because Crean won’t.

  6. Where those kids play 2-3 yrs of college basketball does not make or break the quality of life they live, nor does it define their lives, if that is what you think your views of the world are narrow and shallow. Saying those young ppl are “ruined” is irresponsible use of the English language.

  7. Yeah, but I don’t see that. Seems as if Crean stays too long with kids that don’t produce. Just the opposite.

  8. every team doubles hollowell the moment he starts dribbling. that’s not going to end any time soon. and this is the player coach genius anointed back up point guard at the start of the season. also the same coach who said he considered hanner one of his starters last season. makes you wonder.

  9. Top Ten Things Ruined by Tom Crean (so far):

    10. Tijan Jobe’s sky hook.

    9. Mo Creek knees.

    8. Jeremiah Rivers’ jumpshot.

    7. Jordan Crawford’s Hoosier career.

    7. A poor Arctic explorer’s hard-earned reputation.

    6. Any semblance of a rivalry between Indiana and Wisconsin.

    5. The Indiana-Kentucky series.

    4. Christianity

    3. Basketball

    2. Subway commercials

    1. The 95 years-old Indiana tradition of cutting down nets.

    Go HOOSIERS! Fire Tom Crean now!

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