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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana men’s basketball travels to Penn State, looks to snap three-game losing streak

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With five games remaining on the regular season slate, Indiana men’s basketball sits at 6-9 in the Big Ten and has lost three consecutive bouts at home while dropping seven of its last 10 contests overall. 

After Wednesday night’s 85-70 defeat to Nebraska, when the Hoosiers were ran off the floor by senior guard Keisei Tominaga and the Cornhuskers, Indiana travels to take on Penn State at noon Saturday in State College, Pennsylvania. 

The Nittany Lions are coming off a thrilling 90-89 comeback victory over No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday. Penn State stormed on an 8-0 run in the final 35 seconds to top the Illini and moved to 7-9 in conference play. 

Here’s a few things to know when Indiana and Penn State take the floor: 

Last time out 

When Indiana hosted Penn State on Feb. 3, the Hoosiers jumped out to a 41-37 advantage at the half. Sophomore center Kel’el Ware was brilliant, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting and adding 11 rebounds, but the Nittany Lions’ prowess from beyond the arc proved overwhelming. 

Penn State senior guard Ace Baldwin Jr. feasted on his matchup with Indiana freshman guard Gabe Cupps and played the entire game, pouring in 22 points and splashing a trio of 3-pointers. Nittany Lion junior forward Zach Hicks and sophomore guard Jameel Brown drained four triples apiece, and Penn State shot a combined 12-of-22 from deep. 

Meanwhile, Indiana only knocked down five 3-pointers and collapsed defensively in the second half. Penn State carried its momentum to an 85-71 victory, marking the Hoosiers’ only Quadrant 3 defeat of the season. 

Reeling locker room 

Indiana senior guard Trey Galloway looked dejected as he sat in the Simon Sjkodt Assembly Hall press room after the loss to the Cornhuskers. Freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako — seated to Galloway’s left — spoke with a quiet and solemn tone. 

Head coach Mike Woodson said postgame his locker room is in a negative spot. It’s unsurprising given the team’s recent results. 

“Well, they’re down a little bit,” Woodson said Feb. 21. “You expect to be down. The only way you come out of a rut, come out of a situation that we're in, you got work your way through it.” 

After being booed off the floor, both at halftime and after the final buzzer, Galloway said the team can’t pay attention to the external noise. He added the team needs to stick together as a unit heading down the final stretch of the season. 

Still, barring a magical run in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers are likely left scrounging moral victories. Throughout the season, Woodson continually pointed to the overhaul of this year’s team as a reason for the persistent struggles. 

And now, well over three months into the season and with only five games remaining, the dysfunction remains. 

Keys for Indiana 

It’s been harped on for months, but defending the perimeter will be crucial for Indiana. Penn State torched the Hoosiers from deep in the last matchup, and Nebraska shot 14-of-33 from range last time out. 

Mgbako — a defensive liability in portions of the season — has improved in his rotations and staying with his man, and the Hoosiers have displayed an ability to force tough shots outside. Yet, in the last matchup with the Nittany Lions, Hicks and Brown were the beneficiaries of multiple wide-open looks. 

It’s possible Galloway will be tasked with guarding Baldwin to prevent another offensive outburst from the shifty scorer, but a collective defensive effort will be needed, as well. 

Offensively, while making free throws and limiting turnovers are clear points of emphasis, Indiana could use more bench scoring. The Hoosiers are heavily reliant on their starting five, and only two bench players logged minutes against Nebraska. 

Sophomore guard CJ Gunn has shown flashes, but if senior guard Anthony Leal, senior forward Anthony Walker and others could help relieve the starters and provide spurts of offense, Indiana could put itself in a much more favorable position against Penn State. 

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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