Game Grades: Men’s Basketball vs. Indiana

Story posted January 30, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Donaldson

Penn State rode a dominant defensive effort to beat Indiana 64-49, securing its first win against the Hoosiers since 2016. The Nittany Lions improve their overall record to 15-5 and their conference record to above .500 (5-4).

It wasn’t pretty, but the Nittany Lions got the job done. Let’s hand out some game grades to see how each individual unit performed for Penn State.

Offense: C+

For the majority of the game, there was a lid on the basket for both teams. It was hard for Penn State to generate any sort of offense early. The Nittany Lions would make a shot or two here and there, then the offense would stall for a couple possessions. They were getting decent looks, but nothing was falling.

The entire first half was dreadful offensively for both teams. Penn State couldn’t hit from 3-point range, and the Nittany Lions even struggled to convert at the foul line, going 11-for-23 on the night. It was a lowly 28-28 at halftime.

Lamar Stevens finished two tough and-ones to begin the game, and it looked like he might’ve been on his way to a career night. However, the senior quickly went cold, going 1-for-his-next-5 and struggling to hit free throws. Stevens’ cold streak extended into the second half, as he airballed a free throw with a little over 10 minutes remaining. Stevens then stepped back from the foul line to gain his composure, swished the second, and was locked in for the remainder of the game.

With his 17 points, Stevens moved into third on Penn State’s all-time scoring list and added another achievement onto his legacy at the school.

On the positive side of offense, Penn State’s bench outscored Indiana’s 31-11. Curtis Jones Jr. showed up against his former team, as he was Penn State’s second-leading scorer behind Stevens with 12 off the bench. Seth Lundy and Myles Dread hit threes on back-to-back possessions early in the second half, sparking a 15-3 Penn State run and finally creating some separation on the scoreboard, from which the Nittany Lions never looked back. Everyone who stepped on the hardwood scored at least one bucket for the Nittany Lions.

The offense wasn’t great, but some nights, the shots just don’t fall. The team showed enough grit and confidence, and it was good enough to get the win.

Defense: A

Penn State was locked in defensively. The Nittany Lions were playing tough and aggressively all game long. Indiana was completely flustered from the tip and couldn’t find any fluidity on offense.

Down low, Mike Watkins and John Harrar were suffocating, not allowing the Hoosiers any room to operate. Outside of the paint, the rest of the team swarmed the ball, jumped passing lanes and played with its usual high intensity.

Penn State, as the Big Ten’s leading team in steals, lived up to that ranking versus Indiana. The Nittany Lions stole the ball a season-high 15 times and forced 18 Indiana turnovers overall. That stifling defense turned into offense on the other end for the Nittany Lions, as Penn State scored 21 points off those 18 turnovers. Penn State forced more turnovers (12) in the second half than they allowed field goals (9).

Indiana is a team that likes to manufacture points at the free-throw line. Coming into the game, Penn State had struggled on the defensive end in terms of discipline and getting into foul trouble. There had to be some extra emphasis on playing defense without fouling going in, and the Nittany Lions did a fantastic job limiting one of the nation’s leading teams in free-throw attempts.

Coaching: A-

Penn State had a stagnant offensive performance, and a week off for the Nittany Lions probably didn’t help matters. But Pat Chambers’ continuous belief in the team and his leadership ability shone through. When the shots weren’t falling, he could be seen on the sideline telling his players to stick with it and keep grinding. Things like that are what makes Chambers a good, respectable coach.

Although it wasn’t the prettiest victory, the tally in the win column is all that matters, and credit is due to Chambers and the coaching staff for not allowing the team’s confidence to slip.

 

Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zach.donaldson1@gmail.com.