Penn St.-Indiana Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- After rebounding from its first Big Ten defeat, Indiana hopes to avoid a letdown in its next contest before the league schedule gets significantly tougher.
Trying for their second victory in 17 days over Penn State, the seventh-ranked Hoosiers can keep the Nittany Lions winless in the conference by handing them a 14th consecutive road loss Wednesday night.
Indiana (16-2, 4-1) shot a season-low 37.0 percent and never got into a rhythm in last Tuesday's 64-59 home loss to Wisconsin.
The Hoosiers were more resourceful in Sunday's 67-59 win at Northwestern. Though the Wildcats trimmed a 17-point deficit to five on three occasions, the Hoosiers did not fold.
"It's important for our guys to understand that they are pretty good when they really lock into what they need to do," Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
Seven-foot star Cody Zeller had 21 points with 13 rebounds while Christian Watford added 14 with six boards as Indiana scored 26 points in the paint and held a 36-24 rebounding advantage.
"It's not about who's getting them, it's about are we getting in there and are we making plays out of it," Crean said about the importance of playing well inside.
The Hoosiers, who lead the Big Ten in defensive field-goal percentage (37.0), held Northwestern to 40.8 percent shooting after Wisconsin shot 45.1.
The conference's worst shooting team at 39.3 percent, Penn State (8-10, 0-6) has shot 33.3 and averaged 54.3 points in their last three games against the Hoosiers. The Nittany Lions shot 31.7 percent and committed 19 turnovers while Indiana made 52.4 percent en route to a fourth consecutive series victory, 74-51 on Jan. 7.
Watford had 16 points with eight rebounds while Zeller scored 15 and guard Jordan Hulls added 14. Hulls has averaged 19.0 points and gone 15 of 25 from 3-point range during the Hoosiers' win streak against Penn State.
Indiana hopes to maintain that success Wednesday before a much tougher stretch. After No. 13 Michigan State visits Assembly Hall on Sunday, Indiana travels to rival Purdue and hosts second-ranked Michigan next week before road dates with previously ranked Illinois and No. 14 Ohio State.
The only winless team in Big Ten play, Penn State's current six-game skid is the school's longest in the league and overall since a 0-12 conference start Dec. 29, 2009-Feb. 13, 2010. The Nittany Lions have lost 13 in a row away from home since a 62-54 win at Boston College on Nov. 30, 2011, and 11 consecutive Big Ten road games since winning 66-63 at Minnesota on March 6, 2011.
Penn State won two straight at Indiana before last season's 73-54 defeat.
Nittany Lion guards D.J. Newbill (15.3 points per game) and Jermaine Marshall (15.2) are among the league's top scorers, but were held to a combined 19 on 30.8 percent shooting against the Hoosiers earlier this month.
Marshall scored 18 as Penn State failed to hold a four-point second-half lead in Saturday's 68-64 home loss to Nebraska.
"We need to be the best team we can be by the end of the year," coach Patrick Chambers told Penn State's official website. "I'm not sure what that means, but as long as I see progress and I see us get a little bit better each day, then that's the best team we can be."
Updated January 23, 2013