At noon on Sunday, the Penn State men’s basketball team took on Indiana in front of another raucos, face-wielding crowd at Assembly Hall. Before the game started, however, the entire audience took part in a moment of silence to honor Joe Paterno, whose death was officially announced just a few hours prior. On short notice, it was a very kind and respectable gesture by the Indiana faithful. Penn State’s players also wore black bands on their jerseys to pay respect.
It’s unknown whether the solemn pre-game moment had anything to do with it, but both squads got out to horrible starts in the first half. Neither team could get into a rhythm for long distance, as Indiana went 2 for 7 and Penn State 2 for 9 from three-point land before the break. As has become the usual, Penn State’s hustle and offensive rebounding prowess led to the game becoming closer than the Lions’ opponents probably anticipated. Led by Sasa Borovnjak and the king of intangible Matt Glover, Penn State dove and scrapped their way to an 8 to 3 advantage in the offensive rebound department. That led to a 29-27 PSU lead at the half.
The Lions also did a good job closing out Indiana on the perimeter, but the interior defense was another story. Freshman Cody Zeller continued his remarkable season with 12 first half points thanks to some nifty post moves. Penn State was able to hold Meyers Leonard of Illinois in check during the upset win on Thursday, but Zeller, despite being a year less experienced, is more polished with his post game. He also proved to be an adept defender with 4 blocks on the game to go with 18 total points.
Tim Frazier provided most of the offense for the Nits throughout the game. Although Frazier did force the issue at times when things got frustrating, he for the most part played within himself and dazzled PSU fans with some skillful takes to the rim. The little point guard finished with 21 points on 7 of 18 field goals and 6 of 6 free throw shooting. His lone assist told a tale of the little help Frazier received in the scoring effort.
The second half didn’t take too long to get out of hand, although the game was certainly closer than the final score would make you think. Cody Zeller got things started by tipping in his own miss, and then Jordan Hulls made a great defensive play by intercepting a lazy Jon Graham backcourt pass and running off with it until the IU point guard flipped to Verdell Jones III for the layup. The next two Hoosier possessions ended in Christian Watford three-pointers. After Matt Glover made a slick drive to the hoop that made you wonder why he doesn’t do it more often, Verdell Jones missed a seemingly simple finger roll.
The game really got out of hand over the next few possessions as Penn State went into a slump while IU got threes from Hulls and Matt Roth as well as a nice Sheehey driving layup. Pat Chambers called timout with 13 minutes left, but the Hoosiers had just taken a 10-point lead that would not go away.
Penn State notes
The only other Lion besides Frazier to score in double figures was walk-on Nick Colella, who sported a fine looking jump shot and went 3 of 5 on three-pointers. With Trey Lewis on the pine with a back injury and Matt Glover seemingly having forgotten how to shoot, Penn State is desperate for shooting range, and Colella might be some semblance of an answer.
After a standout performance against Illinois, Cammeron Woodyard was back to being not very good on Sunday. The jump shot wasn’t there, and Woodyard simply isn’t athletic enough to do much of driving to the hoop versus quality opponents. He finished with 6 points on 2 of 11 shooting (0 for 4 on threes)
Graham and Borovnjak were over-matched in the frontcourt all day. Graham played 15 minutes and only recorded one rebound (although he did have a sweet block). Borovnjak at least had 5 rebounds (3 offensive) in his 19 minutes, but he also racked up 4 fouls. I was disappointed that he was routinely ignored on offense even after he put a couple of baskets in past Leonard the other night. It’s not as though Penn State was brimming with offensive options versus IU.
Ross Travis flashed some promise when he overpowered Zeller for the game’s first bucket, but then he got two quick fouls on the other end and it was the Graham and Borovnjak show from that point forward. At least with the stooges, there were three of them.
Jermaine Marshall reeled in his offensive game a little bit and only attempted 7 field goals. He hit all three of his twos and missed all four of his threes. It would have been nice to see Marshall be a little more aggressive with the ball, seeing as how no one in blue could make a bucket in the second half. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.