Penn State was no match for No. 5 Indiana as the Hoosiers rolled 74-51 in the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten home opener Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Hoosiers played a beautiful brand of defensive basketball in the first half and jetted out to a 15-3 run that immediately put the Nittany Lions on their heels.
Christian Watford scored 13 of his game-high 16 points in the first half. Cody Zeller had a quietly efficient 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and also added two blocks and four steals in the game.
“Extremely proud of our team’s effort defensively,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean after the game. “Bottom line is we defended for 40 minutes. We game-planned hard for (D.J.) Newbill, (Jermaine) Marshall and (Brandon) Taylor.”
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Four players scored in double figures for Indiana. In addition to Watford and Zeller, Jordan Hulls scored 14 points (10 in the first half), while Victor Oladipo scored 10 in the game.
Ross Travis led the Nittany Lions (8-6, 0-2 Big Ten) with 14 points, just one shy of his career high.
Marshall scored nine of his 11 points in the first half. Newbill struggled from the field for his eight points, shooting 3-of-15 from the field and accumulating five turnovers. Marshall contributed four turnovers.
“I think we played into their game plan,” Marshall said. “We had a lot of turnovers so they were able to push the ball and get easy shots.”
Penn State had 19 turnovers in the game.
Indiana (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) held a 17-6 advantage early when it effectively swung a knockout punch with its full-court pressure.
With the defense extended, Remy Abell intercepted a Nick Colella pass nearly underneath Penn State’s basket. The layup the sophomore went on to convert was the first in an 8-2 run that pushed the lead to 25-8.
Even when Penn State did settle down, the Hoosiers — who scored 44 points in the first half — were just too much offensively. They shot 51 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3-point range in the first half. Conversely, the Nittany Lions shot just 34 percent from the field.
“Look, that’s not just one guy,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “That’s eight guys, nine guys. There’s a reason why they’re No. 5 in the country.”
Indiana’s depth kept the Nittany Lions off balance all night.
“They have a great bench,” Marshall said. “It’s almost like they have two teams coming at you.”
In the second half, the game devolved into a turnover-plagued mess as both teams combined for 23 missteps. Indiana had 12 of its 17 turnovers in the second half and Penn State tallied 11 of its 19.
But Penn State was unable to convert on the miscues.
“When you play a team like Indiana and you get some turnovers, you have to produce points,” Chambers said. “If you don’t produce points it’s going to be a long night.”
A few positives did emerge as Penn State looks ahead to its Thursday contest against Northwestern.
Ross Travis played his most aggressive game since tweaking his left knee in December. He led the team with 17 shot attempts (6 for 17) and hit 2-of-5 from behind the arc.
“My knee feels fine,” Travis said. “Tonight the game plan was to come out aggressive, don’t be hesitant and be confident in your game, so that’s what I was doing.”
The Nittany Lions also nabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
“If you told me we were going to hold Indiana to 74 points, I’d tell you we’re in the game,” Chambers said as he began to look ahead to Northwestern (9-6, 0-2 Big Ten)
“This is the beauty of the Big Ten — there’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Chambers said. “We’re back to work tomorrow.”
Marshall echoed his coach’s sentiments about turning the page. The junior even tried to glean some perspective from the loss.
“We have Northwestern next,” he said. “The plan is to be the best team we can be by the end of the season. So we’re going to keep on pushing.”