The Big Ten hole in which Penn State finds itself just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
The Nittany Lions emerged from what coach Pat Chambers hoped was a well-placed weekend bye only to continue yet another slide to open conference play. PSU lost at Indiana Tuesday night, 76-73, even though the Hoosiers were forced to go with an extremely small lineup (no regular stood taller than 6-7 or weighed more than 210 pounds) due to injury.
After a record 12 wins in nonconference play (against only one loss), the Lions are now 12-5 overall and 0-4 in the conference. In four seasons at PSU, Chambers' teams have opened league play with losing streaks of two, 14, six and now four (and counting) games.
The Hoosiers (13-4, 3-1) had problems with PSU's size at times. Despite facing a double-digit deficit in the first half and an eight-point disadvantage early in the second, the Lions used solid post play to knot the game at 51-51 on a Jordan Dickerson stick-back with 13:07 left.
But from that point, State stopped feeding the rock into the paint, and went nearly four minutes without scoring. At the same time, IU began to use its quickness to create offense, and the result was a 16-4 run that gave the home team a 67-55 lead.
The Lions scrapped back, and actually had a chance to send the game to overtime on their final possession. Unfortunately for PSU, it was down 76-73 at the time, meaning the inside edge was useless.
The play was doomed from the start. D.J. Newbill slipped after catching a pass, and wisely called timeout from the floor with 4.7 seconds left before IU could tie him up. Out of the TO, Ross Travis struggled to inbound before finally finding Newbill, but his 3-pointer was not close.
Brandon Taylor grabbed the rebound and headed to the arc for another triple attempt. He launched, and it was good. But the shot clearly came after the buzzer, and the game was over.
LIVE BY THE THREE OR
Penn State died by the 3-point shot in this game, in a couple of ways.
Indiana helped mitigate its lack of size by making nine triples on 21 attempts. The Lions, meanwhile, jacked up 24 treys, despite having the size advantage. They made only four of them.
If you happen to be keeping score at home, Penn State is now 21 of 83 (25.3 percent) on 3-pointers in four B1G games.
Another way to look at Tuesday's loss to the tiny Hoosiers:
Penn State was an amazing 27 of 42 (64.2 percent) on 2-point shots. Anyone think there is a reason Big Ten opponents are allowing PSU to launch so many triples?
BTW: Taylor was 1 of 6 from the arc in this game, and is now 3 of 21 on 3-pointers in conference play. He is now shooting 25.6 percent (40 of 156) from the arc in 40 career conference games. Anyone think there might be a reason he is getting all of those looks?
IU BIG GUY OUT
As noted, Penn State had the significant size advantage in this game, as IU's best big man -- 6-foot-9, 235-pound Hanner Mosquera-Perea -- dislocated a kneecap in practice Monday and is out indefinitely. He is averaging 7.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and an impressive 1.6 blocks per game, and had started all 16 of the Hoosiers' previous contests this season.
When the Lions bothered to throw the ball into the paint, they were practically unstoppable. Travis, who has been off his game of late, was 7 of 8 from the floor, his 14 points tying a season high.
Add in centers Donovon Jack (3 of 3, 10 points) and Dickerson (1 of 1), and you are looking at three power players combining to go 11 of 12 from the floor.
Which made the latest awful shooting from long-range look even worse.
CHANGE IN THE POST
Dickerson, a starter in the previous nine games, was benched in favor of Jack. In fact, Dickerson was the third post player to see the floor for the Lions, trailing even redshirt freshman Jordan Dickerson.
Dickerson had scored two or fewer points in PSU's previous four games. More importantly, the 7-1 junior had been a non-factor defensively, with a total of only three blocks in those four outings.
Whatever message Chambers was sending appeared to be received, as Dickerson saw extended action in the second half and finished with a pair of blocks and at least a couple of altered attempts.
NEWBILL DRY SPELL
Newbill had 10 points with 52 seconds left in the first half. But then the Big Ten's leading scorer slipped into an extended drought.
In the second half, Newbill did not attempt a shot until the 10:22 mark. He did not make a shot until the 5:38 mark, by which time the Lions were in trouble. It turned out to be his only points of the second half, as he finished 5 of 15 from the floor.
In fairness, at times he seemed to be the one guard who was trying to feed the post. Newbill finished with six assists.
It did not quite work out that way.
Banks did see more action than his typical 6.1 minutes, with 13. He did not score (missing two shots), but did have a pair of rebounds.
However, Foster, who had played only 13 minutes on the season prior to Tuesday night, never got off the bench.
Johnson is Penn State's fifth-leading scorer overall (7.4) and second-leading scorer in conference play (9.7 ppg).
…is a home game vs. Purdue (10-7, 2-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. The action will be carried by ESPNU.