GAME NOTES: A pair of teams still searching for their first Big Ten victory of the season will square off on Saturday afternoon, as the Indiana Hoosiers visit the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Indiana had the misfortune of facing No. 23 Illinois, on the road, and No. 5 Michigan State in its first two conference duels. The Hoosiers fell in both contests and have now lost three of their last five to dip to 10-5 overall. The 83-80 overtime setback against Illinois was the second in as many road tests for the Hoosiers, who host No. 4 Wisconsin next.
Penn State has dropped bouts against Michigan State (79-63), Illinois (75-55) and Minnesota (68-65) in its first three runs at Big Ten competition. The Nittany Lions are hovering around .500 overall (9-7), and have lost four of their last five games. Trips to visit Michigan and Purdue are next on the docket.
As might be expected for a traditional power like Indiana, it has had very little trouble with the historically weaker Nittany Lions. The Hoosiers have won 33 of the 42 all-time meetings, including each of the last five.
Indiana never really had much of a chance against Michigan State, falling flat in a 73-56 loss. The Hoosiers were outscored, 30-18, in the paint, and by a 22-12 margin off turnovers. They also hit on just 39.6 percent of their shots from the floor, while being doubled up from beyond the arc (30-15).
Despite the stumbles early on, Indiana has produced well for the most part this season. The Hoosiers rank third in the Big Ten in scoring (80.3 ppg) and second in rebounding (44.5 rpg). In fact, they are the fifth-best team in the country on the boards. Yogi Ferrell (17.7 ppg, 4.0 apg) is the scoring power on the team, as well as the contributor head coach Tom Crean leans on the most. Ferrell is the only player on the UI roster averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Talented freshman Noah Vonleh (11.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg) eats up space on the interior, and veteran Will Sheehey (10.9 ppg) is a consistent shooter from 3-point range.
Penn State cut its deficit to just a single point four different times in the final two minutes against Minnesota, but could never pull ahead. The Nittany Lions hit just 39.3 percent from the floor in the final period, and turned in a 6-of-14 effort from the free-throw line to surrender a lead of as many as eight points.
Tim Frazier (17.1 ppg, 6.9 apg) and Ross Travis (11.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg) did their best to push the Lions to a victory. Frazier, who leads the Big Ten in assists, tallied 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting while also dishing out eight helpers in the losing effort. Travis finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. D.J. Newbill (16.9 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Brandon Taylor (10.8 ppg) have been consistent forces for Penn State all season, while John Johnson (11 ppg) has grown into a solid player off the bench despite only recently becoming eligible.
Losing two games to a pair of ranked foes was too be expected for Indiana, which is clearly in the midst of a transitional year. The Hoosiers may not be as strong as usual, but they have enough firepower to take care of Penn State.
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