Penn State came out firing against a lackadaisical Indiana team on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers were favored by 24 points and led the series 19-1 coming into the game. The stunned crowed watched Penn State grab an 18-10 lead to start the game.
"Penn State came out and played well, played hard," Coach Davis said.
Indiana struggled to establish a lead over the Nittany Lions and led only 35-32 at the break. Coach Mike Davis quelled any overconfidence on the Hoosiers' part going into the locker room, realizing that the Big Ten season is a whole new ball game. The intensity level is much higher, and any team can win on any given night.
"Once conference play starts everything is zero zero," Davis said.
Kyle Hornsby blamed Indiana's slow start on a lack of energy, saying the team felt much better after halftime. Hornsby lifted the Hoosiers to a 44-37 lead after making a three-pointer and a running floater to begin the half. Hornsby's play gave Indiana some separation from the Nittany Lions who had been hanging tough with Indiana all game. Hornsby credits his ability to make shots off the dribble to his hard work off-season.
"That's something I worked on all summer," Hornsby said. "It's finally starting to pay off."
While Hornsby's buckets to start the half were important, the play of Newton and Leach gave the Hoosiers needed balance.
Jeff Newton played aggressively all game for the first time since Indiana's loss to Kentucky. He posted up his man inside when he had a height advantage or took the ball outside and drove past his man if he had a quickness advantage. Penn State had no answer for Newton, and he gave the Hoosiers the inside presence they need to be a championship-caliber team.
Davis realizes how important Newton is for his team.
"He's our leader," Davis said. "He's playing great basketball."
Davis blames himself for Newton's recent struggles claiming he took Newton out too early the last few games. From now on Davis gave Newton the green light to go in and out of the game as he pleases.
Indiana showed the intensity in the second half that had been absent from their play recently. The Hoosiers went to the free throw line 27 times, compared to only 8 attempts for the Nittany Lions.
Another positive for Indiana was the play of George Leach who made several aggressive moves inside. IU will need Leach to play well during the Big Ten season. Inside depth might be Indiana's largest weakness.
Indiana also must be concerned with their lack of rebounding. Penn State outrebounded the Hoosiers 38-37 despite playing on the road. That rebounding disadvantage could cause serious problems for IU when playing Big ten contenders Michigan State and Illinois who love to hit the boards.
Indiana pulls away in second half
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