Basketball Preview: Indiana

Story posted February 1, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Kaplan

In a battle of two teams both packed in the middle of the Big Ten race, the Nittany Lions (12-10, 4-5 B1G) will travel to Bloomington, Ind. for a crucial road test against the Indiana Hoosiers (14-8, 4-5).ss

These two have already played head-to-head this season, Jan. 18 at the Bryce Jordan Center, with Indiana coming out on top off a buzzer-beater by James Blackmon Jr. after Penn State rallied from a 14-point deficit only to come up short.

Indiana enters the contest on a two-game losing streak off a brutal week, getting flat-out destroyed by Michigan, and dropping a tough game to Northwestern. After their game against Penn State, they’ll face an even tougher stretch, taking on No. 10 Wisconsin and Purdue this coming week. It will be tough not to look ahead for Tom Crean, whose team needs to find their footing quickly before they begin to slump in the conference standings.

Speaking of slump, the injuries continue to pile up for this Hoosier team. OG Anunoby is out for the season, after having right knee surgery following an injury suffered against Penn State in their earlier matchup this season. The team received unfortunate news this week when they found out that the aforementioned Blackmon will be out indefinitely with a lower leg injury.

Blackmon represents the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game. As a result, Robert Johnson (13.9) and Thomas Bryant (12.4) will have to pick up the slack to avoid dropping one to the Nittany Lions at home. On the boards, they are led by Thomas Bryant, averaging seven rebounds a game, as well as Juwan Morgan (5.3), and Robert Johnson (4.1). Anunoby and Blackmon represent the second and fourth leading rebounders on the team, huge losses for this Hoosiers team trying to be prominent in the paint.

Meanwhile for Penn State, Pat Chambers and his team need to split the season series with the Hoosiers if they want to remain in the thick of the Big Ten race. They were able to snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday against Illinois at home, but face a difficult but important road test for a young Nittany Lions team.

Penn State has four starters averaging double-digits in scoring, led by Shep Garner (12.4), Payton Banks (11.9), Tony Carr (11.5), and Lamar Stevens (11.0). It seems to typically be just one or two players of this quartet who shoot well on a given night, but all four will need to be making shots if Penn State wants pull off this win on the road.

Mike Watkins is the key inside the paint for the Nittany Lions, leading the team in rebounds (8.0) and blocks (2.6) per game. They’ll need Julian Moore to step up in the paint as well, as he only averages 3.2 boards per game, while serving as one of Penn State’s key reserves. He will have to play better defense in round two against Indiana, as he was a liability in the paint the first time these two played.

More than anything, this is a battle of two teams who both are in desperate need of a win to hop back into the top half of the Big Ten standings. While Penn State is no joke, Indiana will have to play essentially with a hand tied behind their back without Blackmon and Anunoby. It is hard to see Penn State playing smart enough and shooting well enough to win in Assembly Hall, known to be home to a hostile crowd at times. While this contest has been decided by five or less points the last 5 times these teams have played, the Hoosiers pull out a close one at home.

Prediction: Indiana 72, Penn State 68

 

Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zvk5072@psu.edu.