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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

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Malik Reneau’s domination not enough for Indiana men’s basketball in loss at Penn State

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Malik Reneau was a scoring machine Saturday afternoon against Penn State. The sophomore forward scored 27 points and added six rebounds in his seventh performance with 20-plus points this season. However, as has been the case in several of Reneau’s best performances, it wasn’t enough for Indiana men’s basketball to overcome its struggles in an 83-74 loss. 

“Just being close to the basket, being a threat and trying to assert my dominance down low,” Reneau said postgame of his success. “Put pressure on them and get fouls on them.” 

Reneau is no stranger to the feeling. The Hoosiers’ loss against the Nittany Lions was the sixth occurrence of Reneau leading the team in scoring in a loss — the most of anyone on the team. 

The former 5-star recruit has shown copious levels of growth in his second season with Indiana. After averaging 6.1 points per game coming off the bench behind Trayce-Jackson Davis and Race Thompson last year, Reneau has developed into the Hoosiers’ primary option this season. He entered Saturday averaging a team-high 15.7 points per contest. 

However, Reneau is the only returning piece to achieve his expected growth, while several other Hoosiers have fallen short of expectations. Reneau’s fellow sophomores — guard CJ Gunn and forward Kaleb Banks — were anticipated to have bigger roles this season but have failed to make the impact Reneau has. Banks has not played since Jan. 19, and Gunn’s scoring average has increased by just 1.6 points per game to a minuscule 3.6-point average. 

Reneau’s mastery of footwork and working the paint has been his bread and butter. He exemplified the skill again Saturday with his array of pivots and post hooks, working around multiple Nittany Lion defenders amongst a crowded paint for baskets. 

The tandem of Reneau and sophomore center Kel’el Ware worked well early as the Hoosiers dominated inside. The duo combined for 21 of Indiana’s 33 first-half points as the Hoosiers outscored Penn State 22-12 in the paint in the first half. 

Indiana battled in a back-and-forth game in the first frame, but things changed when Ware committed his second foul. Leading 27-25 with five minutes left before the half, Ware was substituted out the remainder of the time, and Penn State capitalized. The Nittany Lions outscored the Hoosiers 15-6 in the final stretch to take a 40-33 halftime lead.  

The Hoosiers’ chances of success went further south when Ware committed his fourth foul not even three minutes out of the break and was benched for the next 12 minutes. From that point onwards, it was all on Reneau to attempt the comeback. 

Indiana desperately needed a second scorer to step up in Ware’s absence, especially considering Penn State’s all-around performance but no one could do so as Reneau continued to carry the Hoosiers’ weight. From the 12:08 mark to the 6:04 mark of the second half, Reneau was the only Hoosier to score but still managed to keep the deficit within single digits. He was a one-man army battling a pride of Nittany Lions. 

The lone adequate performance carried over into multiple areas of the game, such as Indiana’s continued free throw struggles. Reneau shot 9-for-12 at the free throw line while his teammates combined to go 5-for-13. 

The 9-point loss was a carbon copy of several of Indiana’s defeats this season. It won the matchup inside with a 50-28 scoring advantage and shot more efficiently from the field, but shooting woes at the 3-point and free throw lines, along with an inability to have a collective performance, spelled the Hoosiers’ demise.  

“I look at the free throws and missed opportunities to make threes, and I thought that was the difference,” head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. 

Reneau’s 27 points accounted for 36.5% of Indiana’s 74 points. All but 10 of Indiana’s points came inside the paint or at the free-throw line. The Hoosiers’ frontcourt did its job, but the perimeter play was insufficient compared to the Nittany Lions, and it made all the difference.  

Next up for Indiana is a rematch with Wisconsin on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Reneau scored 28 points in the Hoosiers’ 91-79 loss to the Badgers on Jan. 19 but didn’t receive much additional help — a strikingly similar story to Saturday.

Wisconsin ranked as high as No. 6 in the AP Poll but has stumbled as of late. It has lost five of its last seven games, presenting an opportunity for Indiana to capitalize and break a slump of its own. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.  

“We’ve had our struggles this year, but we’ve gotta try to finish this season on a high note,” Woodson said. “We’ve got Wisconsin coming in...we’ve gotta see what we’re made of.” 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 

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