To wit: Penn State played zone defense in its game against Indiana at the Jordan Center Saturday afternoon. But Hoosier swingman Roderick Wilmont was in a zone, posting 25 points and 12 rebounds as IU rallied for an 84-74 victory.
After blowing a 12-point first-half lead and being torched by another athletic guard, the Nittany Lions fell to 10-6 on the season and 1-2 in the Big Ten. Indiana, which won its first road game of the year, hoisted a season-high 34 3-point shots (making 14) in improving to 12-4 and 3-1.
And the game came down to the following quote from first-year IU coach Kelvin Sampson: When a team zones you, usually they take something away but give you something else.
Penn State relies on a zone to help even the playing field against teams that are bigger inside and faster on the perimeter, and the Hoosiers fit both bills. The idea is to not allow defenders to be broken down one on one. And to the extent that the Lions held IU leading scorer D.J. White to 14 points and nine shots, it worked to perfection.
There are risks with zones, though. If an opposing guard gets a hot hand, you are in trouble. Witness Wilmont, who was 2 of 11 from the arc in his three previous games, going 9 of 23 from the field and 7 of 17 from deep.
Whether you are playing man or zone, you have to find the guys who are beating you, PSU coach Ed DeChellis said. And Penn State didn't, allowing Wilmont to score 20 in the first half alone and fellow guard A.J. Ratliff to make 4 of 7 triples in the game.
And that brings up the other potential problem with a zone defense. Because players are guarding areas rather than specific men, there are not designated block-out schemes, and aggressive opponents can exploit that to get offensive rebounds and second shots.
The Hoosiers did just that, grabbing 18 offensive boards, six by the burly White and a surprising five by Wilmont. IU turned them into 24 second-chance points on the game.
You can credit Sampson or whoever you want to credit, Lion forward Jamelle Cornley said. But they kept crashing the boards and getting second shots. It's been our Achilles' heel sometimes. They did a good job of crashing and we couldn't do anything about it.
After enjoying a midweek bye, Penn State came out smoking in the game, building a 17-5 edge as all five starters scored in the first seven minutes. White didn't take a shot until the 12:55 mark of the first half, but when he did score — on a tip — it set an ominous tone for the rest of the game. Less than 40 seconds later, he had another offensive rebound and score, and the Hoosiers were well on their way to scrapping back in.
Wilmont bombed in three 3-pointers in the final 4:21 of the half and the Lions seemed lucky to escape to the locker room with a 41-40 edge.
Roderick kept us in the game, Sampson said. And Ratliff put them over the top in the second. His triple midway through the second half drew IU within 54-53. Then White powered in a shot in the paint to give the Hoosiers their first lead of the game, 55-54, before State's Brandon Hassell tied it by making one of two free throws.
But on the next two possessions, IU's Armon Bassett popped an open trey and Ratliff hit a triple of his own and PSU was down 61-55 with 8:35 left.
The Lions had their chances to make things interesting down the stretch but never did. Down 73-67 with two minutes to go, Danny Morrissey missed a wide-open 3-pointer. Down 76-71 with just under a minute left, Mike Walker missed a triple.
The Hoosiers made eight straight free throws in the final 46.4 to end it.
For DeChellis, it was easy to put a finger on the reasons for the loss. The Lions were outrebounded 42-35. They allowed IU to make 14 of 34 from the arc. And State went 20 of 30 from the foul line.
We didn't take care of what we needed to do, DeChellis said.
Cornley (above) and fellow forward Geary Claxton both had 17 points to lead the Lions, playing 38 and 37 minutes, respectively.
State turned the ball over a season-low seven times and only allowed one steal.
Hassell played well overall, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with six rebounds and three assists. He also did a good job defensively on White, one of the better big men in the Big Ten.
Indiana played 11 men in the game, Penn State only eight. The IU bench contributed 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. The PSU bench was good for nine points, two rebounds and one assist.
The Lions had 36 points in the paint to the Hooisers' 28.
Penn State football player Jordan Norwood dressed for the game but did not play for the Nittany Lions.
Next up for Penn State is a Wednesday trip to Michigan.