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Three takeaways from IU men's basketball's win at Penn State


Freshman guard Rob Phinisee scores against University of California, Davis on Nov. 23 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Phinisee scored 12 points Tuesday night as IU won at Penn State. Ty Vinson

For the second time in as many games, IU secured a two-point win against a Big Ten Conference opponent thanks to a crucial defensive play made by a freshman guard.

Against Northwestern last weekend it was Romeo Langford deflecting a pass off a Northwestern player, giving IU possession with less than a minute to go.

On the road at Penn State on Tuesday night, it was Rob Phinisee who prevented the home team from getting a shot off in the dying seconds and securing a 64-62 IU win.

No matter the margin, the Hoosiers are now 7-2 overall and 2-0 in conference play. 

While IU led for most of the game against Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center, things got tight down the stretch, as Penn State had two chances to tie or win the game in the final 20 seconds.

Here are three takeaways from IU's most recent conference win.

1. IU had elite performances from its starting guards against Penn State.

Langford did the scoring in the first half for IU, while Phinisee did it in the second half.

The opening 20 minutes featured a 15-point showing from Langford, who would go on to score 17 points in the game. Langford made jump shots from all over the court and energized the IU offense, which started by making just one of its first 11 shots in the game. 

Penn State jumped out to an early 9-0 lead, but Langford's offensive showing helped reel in the Nittany Lions. It was Langford's three-pointer with 6:31 left in the first half that gave IU a lead it would maintain the rest of the night.

But the points didn't follow for Langford in the second half. He appeared more tentative and hesitant to shoot on offense, reminiscent of the start of the game which featured very few offensive touches for one of IU's most skilled scorers.

This is when Phinisee stepped up. Ten of Phinisee's 12 points came in the second half, including a two-and-a-half minute stretch which saw him score seven consecutive points via a three-pointer, free throws and a layup. Phinisee also distributed the ball well to his teammates, recording five assists and just one turnover.

He frequently could be found racing out to gather loose balls and also made his mark on the glass with five defensive rebounds. But, no sequence from the game will be remembered better than his on-ball defense against Penn State junior forward Lamar Stevens to end the game. Phinisee didn't allow Stevens to gather an in-bounds pass with 2.3 seconds left, pinning the ball near the ground and knocking it loose as time expired.

After the game in a Twitter video posted by the IU men's basketball account, Phinisee said IU Coach Archie Miller drew up the play Penn State ran, and that he switched with sophomore forward Justin Smith on defense to guard Stevens.

2. Neither team shot the ball well, but Penn State was harmed more by missed free throws and three-pointers.

IU hasn't been a good free-throw shooting team so far this season, but the Hoosiers were better Tuesday than the Nittany Lions.

IU made 11 of its 14 attempts from the foul line, although senior forward Evan Fitzner missed a crucial one with 16 seconds left, allowing Penn State the chance to tie or win the game.

Conversely, Penn State made just 11 of its 26 free throws. It was a collectively futile effort from the Nittany Lions. Senior guard Josh Reaves missed five free throws, junior forward Mike Watkins missed all three of his attempts and sophomore forward John Harrar missed three of his six shots.

The shooting from three-point range wasn't much better from Coach Pat Chambers' team, as the Nittany Lions were 5-21 from distance.

Three Penn State players, freshman guards Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton, along with Stevens, missed at least three three-pointers.

3. Frontcourt help may have arrived, and appears to be on the way, for IU.

Senior forward Juwan Morgan was able to recover from a leg injury sustained against Northwestern to start for IU, but the Hoosiers didn't need him to overexert himself.

Morgan played 26 minutes, recording 10 points and six rebounds, pedestrian numbers compared to some of his other games this season. This meant more playing time for Fitzner, who was better defensively and at rebounding the ball but struggled on offense during his 17 minutes of game time.

Sophomore forward Clifton Moore surprisingly received playing time, playing seven minutes and gathering four rebounds and also recording a block and steal while on the court. It wasn't picturesque basketball from Moore, but it was effective. 

More minutes for Moore may be on the horizon, and Miller told reporters after the game freshman forward Jake Forrester should also get a chance to play soon.

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