Bloomington – Indiana's search for a Big Ten victory seemed to find the perfect match Saturday – a conference foe that had never won in Assembly Hall.
No such luck.
The tough times continued for Coach Tom Crean's basketball team, as Penn State (14-5/3-3) jumped to a big lead early and then held on late to hand the Hoosiers a 65-55 setback for their first ever win in Bloomington.
With the loss, Indiana's losing streak reached eight games, its longest skid since 1964. The Hoosiers also slipped to 5-12 overall and 0-5 in the Big Ten, marking the first time since 1944 that an IU basketball team opened league play with five consecutive losses.
Now, Indiana has eight days off to get ready for next Sunday's home game against Minnesota where it will take another crack at picking up its first league win.
"A win would do a lot of things for us right now, but we don't have it," Crean said.
As has been the case in each of the last three Big Ten losses, Indiana found itself in a huge hole midway through the first half. The Nittany Lions connected on 10 of its first 15 shots – including four 3-pointers – and didn't turn the ball over in the game's first 13 minutes to jump to a 27-13 lead. Nittany Lion Stanley Pringle scored eight of his game-high 19 during the early going to help open the big lead.
While the Nittany Lions were hitting most everything they threw up early, the Hoosiers struggled to do much offensively throughout the contest. Indiana was 1-of-7 from 3-point range and 3-of-15 for the game and also missed a bucket load of layups. Devan Dumes (13), Tom Pritchard (12) and Nick Williams (10) all scored in double figures, but no one shot the ball particularly well. Williams finished 5-of-17 from the field, while Pritchard was only 4-of-11.
"The shots were there, and they're shots I can make 80 percent of the time," Williams said. "They just didn't go down."
Despite the offensive struggles and the slow start, Indiana did manage to climb back into the contest. It closed to within eight at halftime, and cut the lead to six on several occasions in the second half. But Penn State always had an answer, and often times it came courtesy senior forward Jamelle Cornley. Cornley scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half and came up with a couple of big buckets to halt an IU rally.
"He's a tough kid, a competitive kid," said Penn State Coach Ed DeChellis. "I think you have to go to your senior on the road in crunch time when you need a basket."
Indiana's final surge came in the final two minutes. Trailing by 10 with 1:25 left, Matt Roth sandwiched a pair 3-pointers around a Penn State bucket, and Dumes scoring on a driving layup with :40 left to cut the lead to four, 59-55.
But Penn State's Danny Morrissey extended the lead to six with a pair of free throws, and Indiana proceeded to miss three 3-pointers in the game's final 30 seconds and lost for just fifth time in 32 games against Penn State.
Losses like this one are especially painful according to Verdell Jones, who finished with eight points, three rebounds and four assists in a losing effort.
"That's what makes it more painful than anything - we're right there we can taste it, we can reach at it, we just can't grab it," Jones said.
As Indiana continues its pursuit of a win, Crean says he'll continue to try new rotations and new players combinations to try to find something that works. On Saturday, Crean did that but turning to little-used Broderick Lewis, who played a season-high 16 minutes.
"I want our guys to understand that scholarship, no scholarship, it's all about competition," Crean said. "It's all about how you're rising up and what you're doing inside of practice. I love our spirit, I love our desire and work ethic, but we're out here trying to win the game. I'm not playing guys just for the sake of playing them. I want guys that are battlers, hungry, win now, win later be a part of this in a big way."
Pritchard 4-11 4-5 12, Taber 1-5 2-2 4, Jones 3-8 2-2 8, Williams 5-17 0-0 10, Dumes 4-9 4-5 13, Roth 2-3 0-0 6, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Finkelmeier 1-1 0-0 2, Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Story 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 12-14 55.
PENN STATE 65
Cornley 7-13 2-3 17, Jones 1-4 0-0 2, Brooks 2-5 1-2 5, pringle 6-10 5-6 19, Battle 4-10 2-5 12, Babb 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Morrissey 2-5 2-2 7, Ott 0-1 3-4 3. Totals 22-48 15-22 65.
3-Pointers: Indiana 3-15 (Roth 2-3, Dumes 1-3, Jones 0-4, Williams 0-3, Pritchard 0-1, Taber 0-1), Penn State 6-17 (Pringle 2-4, Battle 2-7, Cornley 1-2, Morrissey 1-3, Brooks 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 32 (Williams 9), Penn State 25 (Cornley 4). Assists: Indiana 8 (Jones 4), Penn State 15 (Pringle 6). Turnovers: Indiana 15, Penn State 8. Steals: Indiana 3, Penn State 5. Blocks: Indiana 2, Penn State 3. Attendance: 15,626. Officials: Ted Hillary, Tim Hutchinson, Eric Curry.
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