Penn State came into this game with high pressure on their futures. The clash with the Hoosiers would help make or break their tournament hopes. Sitting at 16-13 on the season, State needed a few more wins to stay in consideration for a post season berth in the NCAA tournament. They were among ESPN's last 8 teams out of the tournament.
Indiana opened tonight with an eight game losing streak and nothing to play for. The Hoosiers were looking for some kind of momentum to end their abysmal season, searching for something to build on in the long offseason. Even with the promise of better days to come and more top level help on the way, the Hoosier faithful have found little to be positive about this season.
Ed DeChellis stressed the importance of this night in Indianapolis to his seniors in his pregame speech. Talor Battle's historic and statistic laden career lacked one simple truth; he had never been to the NCAA tournament. Just on the edge during the last few years, Jeff Brooks' emergence as a legit Big Ten player gave the Nittany Lions their best shot at sending their beloved senior out in style.The game started out quickly in Penn State's favor, taking an early lead on Indiana. The Hoosier defense is what kept them from losing control early. Several Hoosier steals and Nittany Lion's defensive break downs led to a Hoosier comeback. Victor Oladipo's breakaway dunk stole the momentum and helped extend a run that would finish 15-1 and let Indiana take control of the game.
Indiana kept Penn State on their toes the entire first half by constantly switching defenses. It flustered the Lions and led to five State turnovers, and an uncharacteristic 1-6 FG out of Talor Battle. Defense was the name of the game on both sides of the ball though, as Penn State forced six turnovers themselves, 11 for the game, and climbed back into the game to take a one point lead at halftime.
Penn State came out of the half with a plan to feed Indiana a healthy dose of their bigs. Jeff Brooks went on a tear to start the half. Andrew Jones and Brooks did the heavy lifting usually reserved only for Battle. The Hoosiers kept it close throughout the half, but could not stop the three headed monster of Jones, Battle and Brooks as they combined for 30 of the Nittany Lion's points.
As a team, the Lions dominated the offensive glass with 11 rebounds, and drew 19 fouls from the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers got little from Verdell Jones III and struggled to keep the pressure on Penn State when it mattered most. Will Sheehey brought the game within four with 2:00 to play, but Jeff Brooks immediately answered with a show stopping spin move for a layup. From there on the Lions never looked back, and never let the game get any closer.
The aggressive defense of IU led to many, many fouls and they could not hit the three at all shooting a poor 22.2%. Christian Watford was the only Hoosier in double digits with 15, and Victor Oladipo's fantastic first half did not carry over into the second. Penn State was too much in the end, and they advance to take a shot at Wisconsin tomorrow. They will look to bolster their tournament resume and possibly lock up their first dance in ten years with a victory over the Badgers.