Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana travels to Penn State seeking 10th conference win of the season

A victory in State College, Pa. Saturday would give Indiana its 10th Big Ten win of the season and exceed last year's total.

On paper, Indiana is clearly the better team compared to Penn State. But recent matchups between the two programs haven't always played out according to the stat sheets. 

The previous two games were decided by three points each. Last season, the Nittany Lions widdled a 12-point Hoosier lead down to three with 53.1 seconds remaining but still fell short. 

"We've had great battles with Penn State over the last few years," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "We've got great respect for Pat Chambers and the entire team and program."

Chambers and the Nittany Lions have had it rough lately. Saturday marks the first game they've played at home at the Bryce Jordan Center since January 21, a 66-60 loss to Wisconsin. 

In the interim, they've played Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio; Michigan at Madison Square Garden in New York and Iowa in Iowa City. 

Penn State's conference schedule layout as a whole resembles a flipped version of Indiana's. While the Hoosiers began Big Ten play with a backloaded schedule, the Nittany Lions had a more challenging frontloaded schedule at the start. 

Playing Michigan State, Michigan twice, Maryland, Purdue and Iowa among their first 10 games of the conference season paved the way for a 2-8 Big Ten record to this point. The only two wins came against Minnesota and Northwestern, teams with a combined conference record of 4-18. They've also played seven of their first 10 Big Ten games on the road. 

The result is the 2th-strongest schedule among 351 Division I teams, according to KenPom. Indiana's visit will mean Penn State has played every team from first through sixth place in the conference so far. 

“We know that Penn State is going to play tough on every play," IU junior forward Troy Williams said. "We need to stay focused and trust our coaches and teammates."

That focus and trust starts on the defensive end. 

Indiana has outrebounded each of its opponents through its 10 Big Ten games so far. But it still allows its opponents to snatch 28.4 percent of their offensive rebounds, which ranks 107th in Division I according to KenPom. 

However, Penn State is much worse off, allowing opponents to snag 29.5 percent of their offensive rebounds. Its 34.9 rebounds per game overall rank fourth-to-last in the Big Ten. 

Still, it's not something Indiana will overlook. 

“We know that each game is its own," IU junior forward Collin Hartman said. "It’s important for us to continue to have a mindset that focuses on defense and team.  Going on the road is never easy so you have to stay in the moment at all times.”

Despite poor shooting numbers, the Nittany Lions also manage to take care of the ball much better than the Hoosiers. Penn State has turned it over on just 16 percent of their possesions so far this season, compared to 20.5 percent by Indiana. 

If Indiana can take care of the ball, it will improve its chances of reaching win No. 20 overall, matching last year's total, and No. 10 in conference play, exceeding last season's mark. 

"They play as hard and tough as any team in the league," Crean said. "We know going to State College is a real challenge."


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