January is almost over and that means that March Madness is right around the corner. The Indiana Hoosiers (15-5, 5-4 B1G) have gone 4-3 so far in the calendar year and look to stay strong heading into February. Head coach Archie Miller’s squad picked up back-to-back wins against Nebraska and previously ranked No.11 Michigan State. However, IU fell in the final seconds against No.17 Maryland Sunday afternoon in what may have been a key victory when it comes time for the Big Ten Tournament.
The Hoosiers now travel to University Park, Pa. for a matchup against the No.24 Penn State Nittany Lions Wednesday night. This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams. They will meet again inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Feb. 23.
Indiana is on a four-game winning streak against Penn State and lead the overall series 39-11. The Hoosiers won the previous matchup 64-62 at the Bryce Jordan Center. The past five meetings have all finished with a single digit scoring margin.
How to Watch
|Who||Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions|
|When||Wednesday Jan. 29, 2020 8:30 p.m. ET|
|Where||Bryce Jordan Center – University Park, Pa.|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek|
|Listen||IU Radio Network|
|Spread||Penn State -6|
Getting to know the Nittany Lions
Penn State (14-5, 4-4 B1G) is coming off a week’s rest since their last contest. The Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State by double digits at home on Jan. 18 and Michigan by nine on Jan. 22 on the road.
Head coach Pat Chambers is in his ninth season with the Nittany Lions and is 141-145. He coached for two seasons at Boston University and went 42-28.
Penn State ranks 41st in the country in scoring at 77.6 points per game. They are shooting 44.7% from the field and 31.9% from the three-point line. The Nittany Lions rank 65th nationally with an average of 12.1 turnovers per game.
Lamar Stevens leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game. The senior forward is hitting 46.2% of his shots while averaging 7.0 rebounds per game. On the defensive side of the floor, Stevens averages 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. In his last five games, he is averaging 17.5 points per game and recorded 24 points in Penn State’s victory over the Buckeyes.
Myreon Jones is the only other double figure scorer for the Nittany Lions. He is averaging 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Jones recorded 36 combined points against Ohio State and Michigan. The sophomore guard is second on the team in three-point percentage (41.1%), free throw percentage (81.8%), and steals per game (1.3). Jones is tied with junior guard Jamari Wheeler for the team lead with 2.8 assists per game.
Wheeler has started every game this season and is averaging just 3.5 points per game. He recorded a season high 10 points against Wagner and Bucknell back in November.
The Nittany Lions rank 138th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 67.7 points per game. The lowest amount of points they have given up is 46 back against Maryland-Eastern Shore while the highest being 86 against Iowa.
Mike Watkins leads the way on defense with 3.0 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. The 6-9 senior has recorded two blocks in three of the last five games. Offensively, Watkins averages 9.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Indiana Hoosiers||Penn State Nittany Lions|
|G: #1 Al Durham (Jr.)||G: #0 Myreon Jones (So.)|
|G: #10 Rob Phinisee (So.)||G: #5 Jamari Wheeler (Jr.)|
|F: #3 Justin Smith (Jr.)||F: #1 Seth Lundy (Fr.)|
|F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis (Fr.)||F: #11 Lamar Stevens (Sr.)|
|C: #50 Joey Brunk (RS Jr.)||F: #21 John Harrar (Jr.)|
What to Watch For
1. Another road trip for the Hoosiers
Indiana is 1-3 in true road games this season. Their lone victory came against Nebraska on Jan.18. In the three losses, the Hoosiers saw themselves in big deficits while struggling offensively. The Nittany Lions are 10-1 at the Bryce Jordan Center this season and have won five of their last six on their home court. Indiana has to keep the offensive rhythm they found in their past three matchups. Lately, the Hoosiers have found success getting the ball inside and getting shots to fall from the outside. Wednesday could be a long night if Miller’s team resorts back to their old selves when facing a deficit.
2. Consistent play from start to finish
Indiana found themselves down early in Sunday’s game against Maryland. However, the Hoosiers went on a second half scoring fury to have a six-point lead with over a minute remaining. Then, IU gave up another lead and managed to give that victory away. The Hoosiers need a complete 40-minute game if they want to win on the road Wednesday. They do not need to hold the lead the entire time, but they cannot have multiple lapses on both ends of the floor. Droughts may happen, but IU’s players have to find a way to come together and get things on track.
3. Could Justin Smith be the difference maker?
Justin Smith is the only Hoosier to average double digits on the road this season. The junior forward is averaging 11.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Smith is shooting 52.4% from the field and averages just 1.6 fouls per game. If Smith can get going early against Penn State, it can alleviate pressure off of backcourt players like Rob Phinisee, Al Durham and Devonte Green. The Hoosiers need output from Smith and the guards to go along with Trayce Jackson-Davis’ performance so the Hoosiers can be a more well-rounded unit.
4. Remembering Kobe Bryant
The sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves through the world, not only in the basketball community. Being a Philadelphia native, Bryant touched many that will be involved from both teams. Archie Miller spent time with Kobe Bryant when his dad coached Bryant. Bruiser Flint is also a Philadelphia native. Of course, Penn State has numerous ties with the state of Pennsylvania in terms of players and staff members.
NBA games have been canceled due to the difficult times that all players are going through. You have to imagine that college players are going through the same hardships.
Featured Photo: Harrison Barden – USA TODAY Sports