On Wednesday night, the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to University Park to square off with the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Hoosiers were firmly in control for most of the contest, but the Nittany Lions kept a foot in the door as the deficit hovered around 10 points for the majority of the second half.
A Tony Carr three-pointer cut the Indiana lead to six points with just over three minutes remaining in the game. A sloppy display at the free throw line from Hoosiers allowed Penn State to hang around just long enough for chaos to ensue in the closing minute.
Following two missed free throws by Indiana’s Curtis Jones, Penn State drew within two points of the Hoosiers by virtue of a three-pointer from Shep Garner with 39 seconds remaining. A costly Thomas Bryant turnover with just 11 seconds left allowed Penn State to tie the game from the free throw line with just four ticks left on the clock.
With the score tied at 75, James Blackmon Jr. dribbled the length of the court and sunk a three ball right in front of his team’s bench as time expired. Ballgame.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. James Blackmon Jr. saved Indiana’s season.
With a respectful tip of the cap to the old adage that insists one play doesn’t win or lose a game, James Blackmon Jr. won the game for Indiana with his buzzer beater three-pointer. Not only did he win the game, he saved his team’s season.
Imagine if the Hoosiers would have lost last night. If Penn State would have completed their comeback, I would have penciled Indiana in as one of my first four teams out of the NCAA tournament in March. The loss would have dropped them to 2-4 in conference play with two games to play against Purdue and one on the road at each Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Luckily for Hoosier fans, the team lives to see another day.
2. Penn State and Indiana is quietly one of the conference’s best rivalries.
One would never guess that a rivalry of sorts would emerge between a team who consistently resides in the top third of a power conference and a team who has only made the NCAA tournament twice this century. But, that is the case with Indiana and Penn State.
In the last six meetings between the two teams, the game has been decided by five points or less. Last night’s installment was the most exciting game in that span, as any game that ends on a game-winning three ball as time expires takes the cake by default.
Indiana and Penn State play once more in the regular season on Feb. 1st in Indiana, where the crowd noise will be louder than what truly sounded like four kids taking turns screaming their hearts out. Just sayin’.
3. OG Anunoby may miss significant time with a knee injury.
At the tail end of the first half, Indiana forward and NBA draft prospect OG Anunoby suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Anunoby was looking to get in position for an offensive rebound when his right knee suddenly buckled beneath him.
Anunoby had to be helped off the floor by medical staff members and didn’t return from the locker room in the second half. After the game, Indiana head coach Tom Crean told reporters that he had “no update” on Anunoby. However, he did say that there were a few Hoosiers (including Anunoby) crying in the locker room at halftime.
Unfortunately, a dreaded ACL tear is a possibility in this case. Needless to say, let’s hope for the contrary.