Indiana knew Penn State would give it a fight, especially with the last three games between the two programs being decided by a combined seven points.
That trend of close games continued Saturday night, as the No.21 Hoosiers fell to the Nittany Lions 68-63 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.
With a chance to earn their 20th win overall and 10th conference win of the season, Indiana (19-5, 9-2 Big Ten) completely faltered down the stretch and had no answer for Penn State (12-12, 3-8) and senior forward Brandon Taylor.
Last year, Taylor's potential game-tying 3-pointer fell through the net after the buzzer had sounded, allowing Indiana to survive. This time would be different, as Taylor finished with a game-high 24 points Saturday, more than doubling his output against the Hoosiers last year. He shot 10 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range.
Those looks often were a direct result of a lack of defensive awareness by Indiana, which elected to employ a 2-3 zone to try to alleviate some of the foul trouble beset with its frontcourt players.
IU freshman center Thomas Bryant picked up two fouls in the first four and a half minutes. By halftime, Bryant had three, with fellow frontcourt starter Collin Hartman and key frontcourt reserve Max Bielfeldt picking up two each.
As a result of those post players battling foul trouble, Indiana resorted to 3-pointers. For awhile, that perimeter shooting kept it in the game, highlighted by Nick Zeisloft's 14 points on 4 of 7 3-point shooting off the bench.
But despite Zeisloft's team-high 14, Indiana could not overcome a litany of mistakes.
Starters committed 13 of the Hoosiers' 15 total turnovers, including five by senior guard Yogi Ferrell. At halftime, Indiana had more turnovers (11) than made baskets (10) yet still clung to a one-point lead.
That lead would disappear quickly after a dunk by Penn State's Jordan Dickerson eight seconds into the second half.
Teams continued to trade baskets down until 1 minute and 13 seconds remained. At that moment, a critical lack of defensive awareness on a baseline inbounds pass from Devin Foster to Julian Moore resulted in an old-fashioned 3-point play after Bryant was forced to help and commit his fourth personal foul.
On the next IU defensive possession, Ferrell got called for a blocking foul which led to Shep Garner splitting a pair of free throws for a 65-63 Nittany Lion lead. Having been in the double bonus since the 2:22 mark, Indiana fed Bryant in the post on the ensuing offensive possession to attack the paint and try to draw a foul.
But as Bryant backed down, he traveled and turned the ball over. Indiana was forced to foul Garner, Penn State's best free throw shooter at 77.8 percent, and he made both. Hartman missed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left that would've pulled Indiana within one, but the Hoosiers never got closer.
It was somewhat characteristic of Indiana's shooting overall, as they finished with a season low 36.2 percent from the field.
The Hoosiers will look to bounce back from the tough road loss with a home matchup against No. 5 Iowa next Thursday.