Lions’ rally comes up short
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana still needs a knockout punch.
At least this season, the Hoosiers have found a finishing touch.
Robert Johnson scored 20 points Tuesday night, Troy Williams added 15 and Indiana held off hard-charging Penn State 76-73 after a potentially tying 3-pointer was waved off by the officials and confirmed by a replay review.
“Fortunately for us, we’re learning how to win close games,” coach Tom Crean said. “It’s not always pretty, but you don’t get rewards for pretty. You get rewards for winning and you get rewards for winning enough.”
Indiana (13-4, 3-1 Big Ten) learned its lesson the hard way last year when they struggled to protect late leads and wound up missing all of the postseason tournaments.
This year, they’ve managed to hold up when challenged.
On Saturday, Ohio State rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 3:32, but Indiana held on 69-66.
It happened again Tuesday when the Nittany Lions (12-5, 0-4) trimmed a 12-point deficit to three in the final minute, then got a defensive stop, took possession on a jump ball and had a chance to tie it with the ball in their best scorer’s hands.
D.J. Newbill missed the contested shot from the left wing, Brandon Taylor grabbed the rebound, raced to the 3-point line and hit a 3 – just after the buzzer sounded. The hopeful Nittany Lions stood on the court, knowing what the result would be.
“It was late, I could see it was late. I saw the red lights go on,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “We got the right guy the shot. We work on that all the time.”
Newbill finished with 12 points, just two in the second half. Ross Travis and Shep Garner each had 14 points to lead a contingent of six Penn State players in double figures – still not enough to end a losing streak that has hit four.
Indiana still has some work to do, though.
The Hoosiers looked like they were ready to pull away when Johnson’s 3 gave Indiana a 42-34 lead to open the second half, but Penn State simply refused to go away.
They eventually tied the score at 51, and after falling back into a 67-55 deficit with 7:29 left used an 11-3 run to get within 70-66.
Travis’ layup with 52 seconds to go, cut the deficit to 76-73 and after an empty possession, the Hoosiers held on.
“We need the team to rally around each other, like we did this game, so that when things aren’t going your way, you make them go your way,” Indiana guard Stanford Robinson said. “Last year they did this to us and they found the momentum. They did try to grab it a little bit at the end, but we did a good job of maintaining (our play).”
Penn State: The Nittany Lions were fearless taking 3s. That wasn’t a good thing against the Hoosiers’ defense. Penn State wound up 4 of 24 from beyond the arc, playing right into the hands of a team that held Ohio State to a season-low 4 of 18 and has allowed its last six opponents to connect on just 30.7 percent of its 3s.
Indiana: Starting forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea will be out indefinitely after injuring his right knee in practice this week, coach Tom Crean announced before the game. Mosquera-Perea was replaced in the lineup by sophomore Collin Hartman, who had eight points and five rebounds.
Penn State hosts Purdue on Saturday. Indiana visits Illinois on Sunday.
Devin Davis, the Indiana player who sustained a serious brain injury Nov. 1, was back on the bench Tuesday. After most of the last 2-1/2 months rehabbing in his hometown of Indianapolis, Davis re-enrolled for the second semester, which began Monday, and was back on the bench – in street clothes – for the Penn State game.
Where did he go?
Penn State played without backup guard John Johnson, who was suspended indefinitely for conduct inconsistent with team standards. Johnson was averaging 7.4 points in just over 20 minutes.
PENN STATE (12-5): Jack 3-3 4-4 10, Taylor 5-15 0-0 11, Travis 7-8 0-1 14, Newbill 5-15 2-3 12, Garner 6-16 0-0 14, Banks 0-2 0-0 0, Thorpe 4-6 1-1 10, Dickerson 1-1 0-0 2, Moore 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 31-66 7-11 73.
INDIANA (13-4): Williams 7-12 1-1 15, Hartman 2-6 2-2 8, Blackmon Jr. 4-12 1-2 11, Johnson 7-11 2-4 20, Ferrell 3-8 0-0 7, Zeisloft 0-0 0-0 0, Hoetzel 0-0 2-4 2, Burton 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 3-6 6-6 12, Holt 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 26-55 15-21 76.
Halftime-Indiana 39-34. 3-Point Goals-Penn St. 4-24 (Garner 2-10, Thorpe 1-2, Taylor 1-6, Banks 0-2, Newbill 0-4), Indiana 9-21 (Johnson 4-6, Hartman 2-4, Blackmon Jr. 2-6, Ferrell 1-5). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Penn St. 37 (Travis 8), Indiana 30 (Blackmon Jr. 6). Assists-Penn St. 14 (Newbill 6), Indiana 16 (Ferrell 6). Total Fouls-Penn St. 18, Indiana 16. A-17,472.