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What to Expect: Indiana at Penn State – Inside the Hall

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Indiana is back on the road for a Saturday afternoon tilt against Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions are 13-14 overall and 7-9 in Big Ten play.

Saturday’s game tips at noon ET on BTN:

Losers of three straight and seven of their last nine, Indiana’s season is spiraling downward quickly. The Hoosiers have dropped three straight home games and have trailed by at least 16 points in the second half in each of its last four games.

The Hoosiers are now tasked with traveling to Penn State, which already trounced the Hoosiers 85-71 in Bloomington earlier this month.

Wednesday night, the Nittany Lions snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Illinois 90-89 at the Rec Hall on Penn State’s campus.

THE FIRST MATCHUP

Penn State marched into Bloomington on February 3 and crushed Indiana over the final 25 minutes. The Hoosiers led 34-23 with 5:15 remaining in the first half and were outscored 62-37 over the final 24:45.

How did the Nittany Lions do it? 3-point shooting was a major component in the runaway victory.

Penn State made 12 of its 22 attempts (54.5 percent) from long range. Jameel Brown and Zach Hicks each made four 3-pointers in the win and Ace Baldwin Jr. made three triples.

A big part of the 3-point success for Penn State was Indiana’s two-big lineup and its struggles defensively. Penn State repeatedly attacked Malik Reneau on the perimeter:

Indiana’s guard play was underwhelming in the Penn State win, which has been the case for most of the 2023-24 season.

Trey Galloway shot 5-for-14 from the field. Gabe Cupps scored two points and had no assists in 33 minutes, while his counterpart, Baldwin Jr., went for 22 points, eight assists and two steals. CJ Gunn and Anthony Leal combined for just three points in 25 minutes off the bench.

Another concerning theme in the first matchup was Indiana’s inability to stretch out the leads it built in the first half. The Hoosiers built three double-figure leads in the first 20 minutes, and each time, the Nittany Lions mounted an immediate comeback.

All in all, it was arguably the worst loss of the Mike Woodson era, although that may have been surpassed on Wednesday when Nebraska dominated the Hoosiers.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

All stats in the graphic below are via KenPom.com, are updated through Thursday’s games and are for conference games only.

The Nittany Lions aren’t a highly efficient 3-point shooting team, but they take plenty of triples. Penn State ranks third in the Big Ten in its percentage of field goals attempted from 3 (3PA/FGA) at 38.4 percent. The Nittany Lions are scoring 31.4 percent of their points in conference play from 3, also the third highest mark in the league. Penn State is shooting 34.4 percent on 3s against Big Ten opponents.

Taking care of the ball will be pivotal for Indiana. Penn State has the second highest opponent turnover rate in the Big Ten at 20 percent and the Hoosiers don’t force many turnovers. The Nittany Lions won the points off of turnovers battle 17-13 in Bloomington.

On the boards, Penn State is one of the few Big Ten teams that is worse than the Hoosiers. The Nittany Lions rank 14th in defensive rebounding percentage and 13th in offensive rebounding percentage. IU was able to grab 42 percent of its misses against Penn State at Assembly Hall, but scored only 14 second chance points.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The KenPom projection is Penn State by five with a 34 percent chance of an IU victory. According to Pomeroy, Saturday is Indiana’s best remaining chance for a win in its five remaining games.

Indiana has shown fight at times in each of its last two games, but sporadic effort and intensity against Big Ten opponents isn’t enough to win games.

Against Northwestern, the Wildcats controlled the game throughout until IU rallied furiously in the final minutes. And against Nebraska, the Hoosiers had a strong spurt in the second half to close a 22-point lead to three before running out of gas in a loss.

With little to play for in terms of a postseason future, it’ll be interesting to see what Mike Woodson can get out of this team in the next three weeks. Penn State, for all its faults, has been competitive all season and has met the meager expectations it had for year one of the Mike Rhoades era. If the Hoosiers only play in spurts on Saturday afternoon, Indiana will be handed its first four-game losing streak of the season.

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