Game MVP - Jamarcus Ellis. The Hoosiers' 6'5" wing contributed his usual array of a little bit of everything to IU's 16-point win. Offensively he scored 12 points, with many of those points coming when he attacked off the dribble and got into the lane and finished. He also pulled down five rebounds and handed out eight assists, marking the eighth time in the last 10 games he's totaled at least five assists. Defensively, Ellis took over the Jamelle Cornley assignment in the second half and held him to zero rebounds in the game's final 20 minutes. After the game, IU Coach Kelvin Sampson joked he could find only one thing Ellis did wrong – a missed 3-pointer with 1:33 left that was his only miss from the field all day. The ill-advised 3-point attempt not withstanding, Ellis continues to the Hoosiers' "glue" player, someone who does a whole lot of things well.
Biggest Surprise… For the game's first 31 minutes, the short-handed Nittany Lions played the Hoosiers even, trailing 58-56 with 8:50 left. While the IU coaching staff's message of Penn State being a "wounded animal" after the season-ending loss of Geary Claxton proved true, this is still a team that now figures to slip to the bottom of the conference standings after the loss of its best player. But Cornley assumed Claxton's role as the team's No. 1 offensive option by attempting 18 shots, and Talor Battle contributed a surprising 20 points and four 3-pointers despite averaging just 8.2 points and shooting only 22.8 percent on 3-pointers entering the contest. To Indiana's credit, it ended the game on a 23-9 run that dashed any hopes of a Penn State upset, and Indiana has shown in the last several games that it can elevate its play dramatically late in a game.
What I Found Most Impressive… The Hoosiers have shown lately they have a switch they can flip when the situation dictates it. Against Minnesota, it was a nearly flawless final two minutes that turned a 60-58 deficit into a 65-60 road win, and Sunday it was a late 23-4 flurry that turned a two-point nail biter into a 21-point laugher in just six minutes. While there's something to be said for being able to squash a seemingly inferior foe from the opening tip, these sort of experiences will prove valuable when the schedule turns much more difficult beginning next week. Indiana might not be the most battled tested team in the nation's top 10 based on its schedule, but it's mettle has been tested in tight late-game situations in recent victories over Penn State, Illinois and Minnesota. That will prove valuable as the Hoosiers gear up for showdowns with teams such as Michigan State and Wisconsin, the kind of contests that figure to be one or two possession games late.
What I Found Most Concerning… Jordan Crawford struggled early, going 0-for-2 and committing a turnover in seven first-half minutes. Crawford didn't play in the second half, as Sampson started Armon Bassett at point guard and stuck with him for the duration. It was a move that paid huge dividends, as Bassett scored 12 second-half points and ran an IU attack that shot 63 percent from the floor and committed only four turnovers after intermission. While Bassett's play was a positive, Crawford's up-and-down performances as of late are a concern for a team that needs him to play well if it is going to win a Big Ten title and be a Final Four contender. Bassett's ankle isn't expected to be 100 percent the rest of the season, and Crawford is the team's No. 2 option at point guard. Right now, Crawford is a very good scoring guard who is going through the sort of ups and downs that you'd expect from a freshman who is learning the point guard position. His decision-making, in particular needs to get better when he has the ball in his hands.
Turning Point: Indiana's late 23-4 run that turned a 58-56 lead into a 81-60 score with less than two minutes remaining. During that 6-plus minute spurt, the Hoosiers scored on 11 of 12 possessions. D.J. White scored five of the first seven points during the run, while Gordon added eight of his game-high 25. While Indiana was having its way with Penn State's zone defense, the Nittany Lions missed all seven of their field goal attempts during the run and also committed two turnovers. The Hoosier barrage turned a game that was very much in doubt midway through the second half into an apparent blowout in the next day's newspapers.
"When you're winning a lot…we have such a good record, when you're playing these times now, the more you win, the harder it gets. Look at college basketball yesterday. We just have to stay on task, stay focused, and keep improving." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson
"We knew they'd play hard without Claxton. Coach preached to us all week that we're playing a wounded animal. I give Cornley a lot of credit too for picking up the slack of Claxton." – Jamarcus Ellis
"He's done a great job. He's undefeated here. We believe every time we step on this court we should win. That's protecting our home and the sense of pride we have here." – D.J. White
PENN STATE: Upon Further Review
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