Upon Further Review: Penn State

For the first time in two years, Indiana has a road victory and a two-game conference winning streak to brag about following its win over Penn State. Hoosier Nation looks back at Indiana's 67-61 win and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Devan Dumes. There were plenty of performances that Indiana couldn't have done without Thursday night. Verdell Jones' late baskets kept Penn State at bay, and Christian Watford's work on the glass was critical down on the stretch. But it was Dumes that had the pail in his hands when IU appeared to be taking on water in the second half. An 11-point first half lead was gone by the game's 14-minute mark, and Jeremiah Rivers was seated on the bench with four fouls. But Dumes had an answer, scoring seven straight points to help IU rebuild an eight-point edge. He added another big 3-pointer that pushed a four-point lead to seven, and helped hold Lion guard Talor Battle scoreless over the game's final 4 ½ minutes after Rivers had fouled out. Dumes has had to adjust to a very different role this season, going from IU's leading scorer in '09 to coming off the bench this year. On Thursday, he showed he can be every bit as important to Indiana's success in his new sixth-man role.

Biggest Surprise… When a team hasn't found a way to win on the road in its last 15 tries, the road win itself is biggest surprise, regardless of the opponent. For all of Penn State's troubles this season, it's still a team that returns three starters from a 2008-09 squad that won 27 games and narrowly missed out on an NCAA At-Large invitation before going on to win the Postseason NIT. But Indiana jumped on the Lions early and closed them out late to claim its first road win since Feb. 23, 2008. It was a performance that showed as much progress for this Indiana team as any of the other big wins this season such as Pitt, Michigan and Minnesota. Road victories are hard to come by for any team, and Indiana took another big step forward with this win. Indiana showed maturity down the stretch, displaying an ability to execute on both ends of the floor in crunch time.

What I Found Most Impressive… Christian Watford's work on the boards in recent weeks. When the Birmingham, Ala., product signed with Indiana, there was no questioning his array of offensive skills and the impact he could make on that end of the floor. The biggest question was whether or not he would be able to physically hold his own against the Big Ten's best frontline players, and if he'd be more inclined to shy away from that style of play early in his collegiate career. Well, ever since Tom Crean issued a not-so-veiled challenge to his frontline players after the Ohio State loss about being more of a presence on the boards, Watford has responded. In the last four games, Watford is averaging 8.0 rebounds overall and during his last three games he's averaging 4.3 offensive rebounds. He's also come away with big rebounds late in games, snaring a critical late defensive rebound against Minnesota and then coming away with a couple of critical offensive rebounds late against Penn State.

What I Found Most Concerning… The inability of Jeremiah Rivers and Tom Pritchard to stay out of foul trouble. Indiana found a way to win with Rivers playing only four minutes in the second half and 17 overall, but the Hoosiers can ill-afford to have their best perimeter defender watching from the sideline. For all of the grief that some heap on his for his struggles at the free-throw line and from the perimeter, he's a tremendous defender who has all the tools to shut down the league's top perimeter players. Indiana needs him on the floor, especially late in games. In six Big Ten games, Rivers has now fouled out once had ended with four fouls four other times. Pritchard, meanwhile, didn't foul out like Rivers did, but he did pick up two fouls in the game's first six minutes and three in the first half. He continues to pick up careless fouls that force him to the sidelines for significant stretches virtually every game.

Turning Point: Indiana's 10-2 run midway through the second half that turned a 40-40 game into a 50-42 edge. Dumes was huge during that spurt, knocking down a 3-pointer, an 18-footer and converting a layup on a hard drive to the basket. Indiana would still need some big baskets and stops late after Penn State cut the lead back to as little as three in the closing minutes, but this was the stretch when it appeared the game had a chance to get away from an Indiana team that was already coping with foul trouble for both Jeremiah Rivers and Tom Pritchard. But Dumes' play and IU's 10-2 run enabled the Hoosiers to regain their composure for the stretch run.

Quotable:
"Everybody that played made a great contribution and it might have been free throws, it might have been a rebound, but when your on the road in a possession-by-possession game, everything is magnified. And when you make those kinds of contribution, it makes your team feel really good about themselves - our guys should feel good about themselves." – Tom Crean

"Every once in a while when you don't think that Christian is going as hard as he can, he uncoils and there he is…Again, for the second straight game he came up with big rebounds at winning time." – Crean

"(Talor Battle) turned his ankle Tuesday and didn't practice Tuesday or Wednesday and we didn't know if he was going to play or not. He thought this morning he could play and I think [Talor Battle] did a good job of scoring the ball for us and getting us back into the game." – Penn State Coach Ed DeChellis

"We just can't make a play offensively or defensively. It was 40-40, they got the offensive rebound and a basket. Then we gave up another offensive rebound, and they do it again. We have not made plays down the stretch this year and that goes for everyone. We just have to somehow figure it out." – Talor Battle


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