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What to Watch for: Indiana-Penn State

Indiana guard Josh Newkirk goes up for a layup last season against Penn State in overtime. Hoosiers would beat the Nittany Lions 110-102 in Triple OT. Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

By Zain Pyarali

Indiana (9-7, 2-2) is back in Assembly Hall tonight as Penn State (12-5, 2-2) visits Bloomington for the only matchup between these two programs this season.

Fresh off a 75-71 road win at Minnesota, Indiana needs to keep the momentum moving forward. But, Penn State themselves are also coming off an impressive 78-63 win at home against Northwestern.

Here are a couple of things to watch for tonight in this matchup…

Frontcourt Matchup

It was encouraging for Archie Miller to see freshman forward Justin Smith perform the way he did at Minnesota without sophomore forward De’Ron Davis and senior forward Collin Hartman, but Tuesday night he’ll have to duplicate that performance.

Penn State carries a very strong frontcourt with Mike Watkins (13 ppg, 9.5 rebounds) and Lamar Stevens (15.1 ppg, 6.7 rebounds) who are both coming off incredible performances last week. Watkins has posted back-to-back 17 rebound efforts in the last two games while adding 17 points against Maryland and 18 points against Northwestern.

Junior forward Juwan Morgan, who has been the best player for IU on both ends of the floor this season, will have to keep Watkins in check and out-hustle him on the glass as both teams average 37 rebounds per game.

Stevens on the other hand is coming off a career high 30-point game against Northwestern as he shot 14-19 from the field. Smith did a good job limiting double-double machine Jordan Murphy from Minnesota to 5-14 shooting last game, as he will most likely have to play with the same defensive mindset against Stevens.

If Morgan and Smith continue to attack the bucket like they did against Minnesota, combining for 40 of IU’s 75 points, then they have to stay out of foul trouble. Likewise, they’ll hope to get the Nittany Lions into foul trouble as neither team has tremendous depth coming off the bench.

Lions Have Large Upper Hand On Defense

Penn State has the third best defense in the Big Ten according to Ken Pom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, only sitting behind Michigan State and Purdue, checking in at 16th in the nation. The Lions only allow 64.8 points per game while on the other hand Indiana allows 72.3 points per game and has an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of 151 (last in the Big Ten).

If Indiana wants to slow down Penn State, not only do they have to keep the frontcourt in check, but also more importantly defend the perimeter. Opponents are shooting 38 percent against IU from deep this season and Penn State as a team comes in with a team 3-point percentage of 38.

The Lions have three guys who can light it up from deep with Tony Carr (49%), Josh Reaves (43%) and Shep Garner (39%). Minnesota shot 7-14 from deep in the first half allowing them to stay in the game, but in the second half IU made an adjustment limiting the Gophers to shoot just 2-9 from beyond the arc. That was a big part of why IU went on to win.

Also in the last 20 meetings between Indiana and Penn State, IU is 10-0 when scoring more than 72 points and 1-9 when scoring less than 72 points.

Hoosiers Have to Make 3’s

Subsequently the Hoosiers have to make the deep ball, as they have not been close to the IU teams of the past seasons in terms of shooting 3-pointers. Last game against Minnesota was the second best 3-point shooting game for the Hoosiers this season as they went 8-19 shooting 42 percent.

IU has a record of 6-0 this season when they make eight or more 3-pointers in a game and 3-7 when they make less than eight three’s in a game.

Indiana 3-point shooting game by game

Indiana State: 22% (4-18) LOSS

Howard: 36% (8-22) WIN

Seton Hall: 33% (6-18) LOSS

South Florida: 29% (5-17) WIN

Arkansas State: 36% (7-19) WIN

Eastern Michigan: 57% (12-21) WIN

Duke: 23% (5-21) LOSS

Michigan: 28% (2-7) LOSS

Iowa: 38% (8-21) WIN

Louisville: 21% (5-23) LOSS

Notre Dame: 38% (8-21) WIN

Fort Wayne: 16% (4-24) LOSS

Tennessee Tech: 33% (8-24) WIN

Youngstown State: 22% (5-22) WIN

Wisconsin: 26% (4-15) LOSS

Minnesota: 42% (8-19) WIN

Senior guard Robert Johnson, who finished with a career high 28 points, was encouraging, but he only accounted for three of the eight made 3-pointers at Minnesota. The other five came from Morgan and Smith, something you can’t rely on if you’re Indiana.

Miller has to get the rest of his guards out of their shooting funk as senior guard Josh Newkirk was held scoreless against the Gophers and sophomore guard Devonte Green has shot 6-36 from the field since the Notre Dame game.

Crazy Finish?

The last six meetings between these two teams have come down to the wire, with each game being decided on average by four points. Last year the two IU-Penn State games were decided by a buzzer beater and in triple overtime, both in favor of IU.

Considering how Indiana has played this season and Penn State needing this road win to help out with a potential NCAA Tournament bid, it might get crazy at the end once again.

Last 6 Meetings

2/1/17 (Home): 110-102, Indiana (3OT)

1/18/17 (Away): 78-75, Indiana (James Blackmon buzzer beater 3-pointer)

2/6/16 (Away): 68-63, Penn State (15 IU turnovers leading to 19 PSU points)

1/13/15 (Home): 76-73, Indiana (DJ Newbill missed 3-pointer at buzzer)

2/12/14 (Home): 66-65, Penn State (PSU closed game on 13-1 run)

1/11/14 (Away): 79-76, Indiana (IU trailed by 15 in first half)

Zain Pyarali

I am a junior from Edwardsville, Illinois majoring in Sports Media. I formerly worked for the Indiana Daily Student for two years serving as the Sports Editor and beat reporters for Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, Baseball and Field Hockey during my time with the student newspaper. Currently I am the Men’s Basketball beat reporter for IU Student Television while I also broadcast games for BTN Student U. Email me: zpyarali@thehoosiernetwork.com and follow me on Twitter: @ZainPyarali

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