But Penn State looked like a junior varsity Big Ten team, if there were such a thing, though IU deserves all the credit for going on the road and beating Ed DeChellis’ squad at the Bryce Jordan Center.
It was a rather uneventful game, but what most stood out to me watching the Hoosiers and Nittany Lions do battle was one number in particular: zero lead changes.
IU got in foul trouble, Penn State won the rebounding battle by eight and they were dominated in the paint by the not-so-talented Andrew Ott.
Yet the Hoosiers stuck to their game plan, did an overall good job in limiting junior guard Talor Battle offensively, kept their composure throughout the game and never surrendered the lead.
Following a 5-0 spurt by Penn State, the game was tied at 40 seven minutes into the second half, but IU went on a 10-2 run to grab an eight-point lead.
Though the offense looked a bit sluggish for a few minutes without junior guard Jeremiah Rivers – he was riding the pine with four fouls – it was senior guard Devan Dumes who came to the aid of his teammates.
During the 10-2 run, which put the Hoosiers up in front 50-42, Dumes hit a big 3 and added a pair of two-point buckets.
Late in the game, it was two familiar faces – freshman forward Christian Watford and sophomore guard Verdell Jones – that made key plays for the Hoosiers.
With just a 60-57 lead and under four minutes to play, Dumes missed a deep 3 that might have given Penn State a chance to cut the lead or tie the game.
But in swooped Watford with a big offensive rebound that not only reset the shot clock, but it eventually led to trey from Jones that extended the lead to six.
On IU’s next possession, Jones got in the lane, faded away and connected on a fall-away jumper to make it 65-57.
Though Penn State tried clawing back, sophomore guard Daniel Moore hit a pair of free throws to seal the deal.
But it wasn’t just Dumes, Watford, Jones or even Moore, for that matter.
It was Rivers’ 6 first-half points, freshman forward Derek Elston’s 8 points and 3 blocks coming off the bench and freshman guard Jordan Hulls’ steady play without Rivers.
“Everybody that played made a big contribution,” Crean said. “It might have been free throws, it might have been a rebound. When you’re on the road in a possession-by-possession game, everything is magnified. And when you make those kinds of contributions, it makes your team feel really good about themselves.”
The game was boring at times, as IU slowed the pace of the game and worked their offense, but it was enough to get things done.
IU had an answer for Penn State in most situations, and while Battle went for 22 points, he missed 11 shots and the team was held to 4-of-22 from behind the arc.
The end result might be a bit different at Illinois next Saturday if the team finds itself in early foul trouble and gets outrebounded like they did.
However, the Hoosiers took care of business when it came down to it, and they held their own on Penn State’s home court.
“Our guys should feel good about themselves,” Crean said. “They earned a victory again tonight.”
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