The shooting wasn’t there again for IU.
Outshot by a substantial percentage against Penn State, the Hoosiers would need to find a different way of earning a Big Ten Conference victory. Turning to a style based on toughness and chemistry without sophomore forward De’Ron Davis for the second game due to injury, IU ground out a 74-70 victory over Penn State.
After an up-and-down first few months of the season, IU has seemed to find a new identity as IU heads into the heart of conference play. Instead of worrying about the game being beautiful, they have locked in on just trying to win.
“There's other ways you can win the game,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “You can win the game with stops and with rebounding and win the battle at the free-throw line.”
The Hoosiers made up for the lack of shooting by taking care of the ball. Turning the ball over on just 12.7-percent of its possessions, IU was and played in-tune with each other. Miller noted that there weren’t any shenanigans from the group as they were keyed on details.
While IU only made six threes, each one came at a critical time for the Hoosiers. The only time Penn State took the lead, senior forward Collin Hartman hit a three-pointer and was fouled to pull ahead with 4:41 left in the first half.
After controlling most of the second half, Penn State was threatening until sophomore guard Devonte Green hit a three-pointer to put IU back up by eight points.
“I think this was the first time this season we've been able to string together two consecutive 40-minute efforts,” senior guard Rob Johnson said.
This wasn’t going to be a repeat of the Wisconsin or the Minnesota games where the Hoosiers took leads into halftime and squandered them in the end. Instead, they used a complete performance to earn their third conference victory.
“We got soft against Wisconsin,” Miller said. “They got us in the last eight minutes. But up in Minnesota, we were a collective group. I think understanding right now it's about playing to win. It's about going and getting the wins.”
In a muddled Big Ten, scrapping out victories is the goal for IU. For years, IU has been known as an explosive offense capable of shooting the lights out from deep. The Hoosiers can’t shoot like that anymore, but are finding a new way of finding success in the Big Ten.
That comes from an attitude of hard work and effort that Hartman says is being molded in practice.
“We've got guys that are ready to go,” Hartman said. “And if you're not ready to go someone else is going to sub you in. So you just got to come in ready. And that hard working and that scrappy mindset is what we have to have every day and carry over to these games.”
When Miller was brought in as head coach, it was expected that he would bring with him from Dayton a new mentality. 17 games into his tenure, IU is starting to show signs that of the new outlook on how to win games.
“We weren't great, by any stretch of the imagination. But guys were locked in, playing to win. I think we had a good mindset in terms of that and we've got to keep growing.
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