Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, style points really didn't matter. Winning and advancing to Friday's quarterfinal against Wisconsin was all PSU had to do to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. So in that sense, consider it mission accomplished.
The Lions overcame an ugly first half and the Hoosiers' junk defenses that contained star guard Talor Battle, beating IU 61-55 to improve to 17-13.
I'm really proud of our guys, said PSU coach Ed DeChellis. We knew this would be a tough game for us and I thought our kids the second half played much better than the first half.
Battle finished with 13 points -- seven below his season average -- as IU threw modified box and one and triangle and two defenses at PSU most of the night. He hit only 3 of 12 shots.
They X'd me out of the game, that's what good coaches do, Battle said, referring to IU mentor Tom Crean. But my guys stepped up and they won the game.
Forward Jeff Brooks had a big second half, finishing with a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds. And center Andrew Jones played one of his best games of the year, coming through with a dozen points and seven boards.
Penn State eventually out-rebounded Indiana 34-23 after the battle of the boards was tied 16-16 at the half.
When everything was said and done, the rebounding was the difference in the game, Crean said.
Added DeChellis: When we rebound the ball, it's really been a key to winning.
Indiana, which finished its season at 12-20, entered the tournament as the 11th seed and having lost eight straight games. So even though the Hoosiers' Bloomington campus is a short drive away from Conseco Fieldhouse, the Lions were the clear favorites. And they played that way early, making their first three shots to take an 8-0 lead.
But then the importance of the game appeared to hit Penn State. It surrendered a 15-1 run to let Indiana right back in it.
The Lions collapsed on nearly every level. Their two leading scorers, Battle and Brooks, made a combined 2 of 11 shots in the first half. Point guard Tim Frazier finished the period with three turnovers and three fouls. Forward David Jackson missed most of the first half with two fouls.
Guys were playing a little tight, Brooks said.
Despite all of this -- and thanks to seven points off the bench from guard Jermaine Marshall -- PSU led 28-27 at the break.
I just thought we settled down a little bit in the second half, DeChellis said.
And that happened because PSU began pounding the ball into the paint. The Lions opened the second half with a convention 3-point play from Brooks. And while they were never quite able to blow it open, they at least controlled the action throughout the second half because they were able to score down low whenever they needed a bucket.
It may not have been pretty, but DeChellis didn't care. Most experts believe the Lions need a win against Wisconsin tonight to seal the deal for an NCAA bid. Getting past Indiana -- by whatever means -- at least kept that possibility alive.
You have to win to continue to build your resume, DeChellis said. The time is now. I told our seniors, this is the time to make your dreams.
Forward Christian Watford led IU with 15 points.
The Nittany Lions are 12-1 when leading at the half of games this year.
The No. 6 seed is now 12-1 all-time vs. the No. 11 seed on the Big Ten Tournament.
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