By Teddy Bailey
In a critical early conference game for both teams, Indiana (10-7, 3-2 Big Ten) battled its way past Penn State, 74-70 to earn its second consecutive Big Ten win.
The Nittany Lions (12-6, 2-3) would seemingly never go away Tuesday night, knocking down a pair of late 3-pointers to force Indiana to the free throw line. Late points from the charity stripe from Josh Newkirk and Devonte Green sealed the game for Indiana.
Next up for Indiana is Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday at Assembly Hall.
Here’s the Rapid Reaction:
If Indiana is a ship, Juwan Morgan steers it. In multiple instances Tuesday evening, the Hoosiers were on the precipice of allowing Penn State to seize the game’s momentum — either by a string of missed 3-pointers or struggling to defend Lamar Stevens inside. Morgan was there to keep the Nittany Lions at arms length — scoring a team-high 21 points and adding 11 rebounds en route to his sixth double-double of the season.
With 3:53 remaining in a five-point game, Morgan completed a three-point play to extend IU’s lead to 64-56 down the stretch. Following Justin Smith’s 20-point outburst at Minnesota on Saturday, the freshman forward played just six minutes after collecting two fouls early. Nevertheless, Morgan played a career-high 39 minutes to combat Penn State’s frontcourt duo of Stevens and Mike Watkins.
The Second Half Start:
The Hoosiers led at halftime, 35-31, and led Penn State for the majority of the opening frame — but it was vital for Indiana to open the second half in the same fashion. The Hoosiers converted five of their first six field goals after halftime, highlighted by a 3-point play from Robert Johnson following a Justin Smith missed dunk.
Furthermore, Indiana was able to contain Lamar Stevens in the second half. Penn State’s 6-foot-8 sophomore forward dominated the Hoosiers to the tune of 20 first-half points — in the second half, however, Stevens was held to just four points on 2-of-5 shooting. Likewise against Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy, Indiana impressively contained a heralded Penn State frontcourt enough to get the win.
Surviving 3-point shooting woes
Especially true in the first half, Indiana was not shy when it came to hoisting up 3-pointers. The majority of looks were open shots, as Penn State allowed players such as Collin Hartman and Juwan Morgan to fire away early on. They just didn’t fall, as IU shot a lowly 6-of-27 (22 percent) from 3-point range — its lowest percentage in a victory this season (Youngstown State, 5-of-27).
That being said, clutch second-half shots beyond the arc from Josh Newkirk and Devonte Green helped maintain the Hoosier lead. Green connected from 3-point range with 6:20 remaining to hand IU a 61-53 lead. To combat another poor performance from outside, the Hoosiers committed only nine turnovers on Tuesday night — the lowest since November 29th against Duke. For the better part of its win against Penn State, IU took care of the ball and rebounded admirably against PSU’s frontcourt — winning the rebounding battle, 36-31.