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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Hoosiers look for defense to slow PSU stars

It’s a problem that has plagued IU for almost every one of its first 21 basketball games this season.

The opponent didn’t matter. The stakes didn’t matter.

In seemingly every game, the Hoosiers allowed the opposing team’s star player to score — and to score in bunches. Opponents’ leading scorers averaged 21.5 points per game during that stretch.

IU didn’t discriminate who it allowed to light up the scoreboard. While Big Ten Player of the Year Gary Harris scored 24 and 26 points in Michigan State’s two games against the Hoosiers, Chicago State’s Clarke Rosenberg scored 27 in IU’s season opener.

For every Rayvonte Rice of Illinois — 49 points in the Illini’s two games against IU — there was a Dallas Moore, who scored 27 against the Hoosiers, despite his North Florida team losing by 21 points.

Their inability to stop star scorers nearly felled the Hoosiers in their first matchup with Penn State this season. Nittany Lion junior guard D.J. Newbill poured in 24 points in State College, Pa., keeping his team within striking distance of IU before losing 79-76.

IU Coach Tom Crean said Penn State’s versatility on offense challenged IU during the Jan. 11 matchup.

“They are very good on the break and with their half-court offense,” Crean said. “They are very, very good at pull-up jumpers and getting to the rim. They play smart, tough basketball and like to control the pace.”

For 21 games, IU struggled to slow opposing scorers.

Now, more than a month after that Penn State matchup, the Hoosiers appear to have bucked that trend.

In IU’s last two games — a win against then-No. 10 Michigan and a loss at Minnesota — they held the opposition’s leading scorer to an average of 14.5 points.

That success has been a large part of a defensive rebirth that has seen the
Hoosiers allow only one opponent of its last six — then-No. 3 Michigan State — to score 70 or more points.

IU will look to continue its defensive revival tonight when the Nittany Lions come to Assembly Hall.

Newbill will be joined in Penn State’s offensive attack by graduate student guard Tim Frazier, whose 16.2 points per game trail just 1.5 points per game behind Newbill’s 17.7.

Crean said the Nittany Lions have yet to find a reliable third scorer, but he thinks sophomore forward Brandon Taylor could step up and be that player.

“If there is one guy who is continuing to flourish, people would think it is Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, and they are,” Crean said. “But Brandon Taylor is playing extremely well for them also.”

Taylor’s 9.8 points per game place him third on Penn State’s roster. Should IU be able to build on its progress on the defensive end and slow Newbill and Frazier, the outcome of tonight’s game could hinge on his ability to score.

Crean said IU is close to getting where he wants it to be and have been overcoming its youth to get there.

“We are so close,” Crean said. “There are so many corners that you have to turn to be a good basketball team. So we have turned and we want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of that.

“Some we haven’t turned yet. The bottom line is that the more confident these guys get from the experiences they go through and the understanding of it, the better they will be.”

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