A player to watch: Penn State

If Indiana hopes to leave the Bryce Jordan Center today with its first Big Ten victory, one player in particular is going to need to step up. This freshman has yet to have his first 20-point game this season but the expectation is that will happen soon.

With each game this season we'll put the spotlight on an Indiana player that we believe is someone to keep an eye on for that particular game.

For today's game against Penn State, we'll take a look at freshman Noah Vonleh:

Vonleh has been in the spotlight more than a few times in this segment in the first 16 games of the season. And he should be. He's a key factor if Indiana hopes to get things going in Big Ten play after opening conference with back-to-back losses to Illinois and Michigan State.

Indiana fans continue to have the same expectation with the 6-10 forward as they have had for quite some time. The bottom line is when is Vonleh going to have a breakout game? He has had six double-doubles this season including an 18-point, 15-rebound game against Stony Brook. Not enough of a breakout game though? Here is the thing with Vonleh. That 18-point performance was his season high in scoring. He also had 18 against Washington. That was Nov. 21. In the 10 games since then, Vonleh has reached double figures just half of the time (five games). He had 17 against Syracuse and 16 against Illinois, but the others were either 13 or 14 point efforts. If Vonleh is truly one of the nation's top freshmen players, he should be eclipsing the 20-point scoring plateau from time to time. He should also be dominating play more than he is. IU coach Tom Crean called Vonleh out after IU's loss to Michigan State exactly a week ago saying his big freshman needed to demand the ball more inside. IU has had a full week of practice so we'll see if Vonleh got the message.

Perhaps the biggest thing for Vonleh is the number of shots he is taking per game. In the last 10 games, Vonleh has not taken more than six shots in any game. It's going to be difficult for the big man to score 20 points or more just taking six shots per game. In his first five games, he averaged 10 shots per game and was in double figures in shot attempts four times. Even more to that point, in two Big Ten games Vonleh has attempted a total of 10 shots (six against Illinois and four against Michigan State). But here is the staggering statistic. Vonleh has yet to attempt a shot in the second half of a conference game. All 10 of those shots came in the first half of the two games. Staying out of a foul trouble will obviously be a key, too. Vonleh has committed 13 fouls in the last three games and fouled out of two of those games (Kennesaw State and Illinois). Going on the road against a team like Penn State though, Indiana is going to need a good, solid, all around performance out of Vonleh and that's why he is our player to watch against the Nittany Lions.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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