Penn State at Indiana Preview: Nittany Lions Look to Build Momentum

By Dan Smith on January 9, 2018 at 10:10 am
Indiana Hoosiers forward Juwan Morgan (13) posts up defended by Minnesota Gophers forward Jordan Murphy (3) in the second half at Williams Arena.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Hoosiers
9-7 (2-2 B1G)
6:30 p.m. EST - Tuesday, January 9
Bloomington, IN
TV Info: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 91
Vegas Line: Penn State -1.5

Penn State's 78-63 win Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center against Northwestern was only an important win insofar as the Nittany Lions cannot really afford to lose any more winnable games this season. If postseason play is still the goal, as we know it is, they have used up all their missed chances already due to a weak schedule.

They got the job done in that one, and can now turn their eyes to Bloomington and the Indiana Hoosiers. Penn State is already 1-0 on the road in conference play thanks to a win at Carver-Hawkeye against Iowa back on Dec 2. Despite Iowa being down like many other Big Ten squads in 2017-18, that game remains Penn State's "best" win so far this season.

The Hoosiers are coming off a 75-71 road win against Minnesota, their second big win of the year. The first came on Dec 16 in overtime against Notre Dame. The story of their season so far, as you might imagine with those wins and that record, is inconsistency. When they are on, they can play with very good teams, but they have thrown up some duds as well.

Projected Starters
Penn State   INDIANA
No. 10 - Tony Carr - 6'5 - So. PG No. 2 - Josh Newkirk - 6'1 - Sr.
No. 33 - Shep Garner - 6'2 - Sr. SG No. 4 - Robert Johnson - 6'3 - Sr.
No. 23 - Josh Reaves - 6'4 - Jr. SF No. 3 - Justin Smith - 6'6 - Fr.
No. 11 - Lamar Stevens - 6'8 - So. PF No. 15 - Zach McRoberts - 6'6 - Jr.
No. 24 - Mike Watkins - 6'9 - RS So. C No. 13 - Juwan Morgan - 6'7 - Jr.

Scouting Report

It is not actually clear who will be in the starting lineup for Indiana, as new head coach Archie Miller has been making adjustments throughout the season. The projection above reflects their lineup in Saturday's win at Minnesota. You can consider Morgan, Johnson, and Newkirk to be the "locks." Morgan's shift to the five comes due to injury, while McRoberts and Smith had only combined for two starts before the Minnesota game.

Collin Hartman and De'Ron Davis have been dealing with injuries that may keep them out of the game against Penn State. The oft-injured Hartman, who missed the entirety of the 2016-17 season with a knee injury and the beginning of this season with a groin problem, is currently dealing with a shoulder injury and has played in only 10 of the team's 16 games. Davis, meanwhile, has a lower leg injury that kept him out of the Minnesota game. Davis had started in every matchup prior, despite only averaging 18.8 minutes per game.

As for evaluating Miller's team as a whole, it is apparent that defense is a struggle early in his tenure. Home losses to Indiana State and Forth Wayne saw the Hoosiers give up 90-plus points in both cases. The absence of the 6-foot-10 Davis, a good shot blocker and defender, will only exacerbate this concern.

The offense, meanwhile, runs through Juwan Morgan. He is certainly efficient, with a good shot selection and excellent offensive rebounding numbers (12.6% offensive rebound rate). Morgan gets to the free throw line at a good clip as well, and shoots 71 percent once he is there.

Outside of that, the Hoosiers are compiled of role players and inexperienced talents. Newkirk is a decent three-point shooter, but he is really the only one with Hartman injured. Davis is the other good offensive rebounder, but he will not play. Morgan and Johnson should be the focuses of Penn State's defensive strategy.

Keys to the game

IU Four Factors eFG % OReb % TO % FT Rate
Offense (65) 51.5% (145) 35.1% (36) 19.5% (158) 36.4 (110)
Defense (151) 51.5% (206) 29.9% (218) 19.5% (146) 31.1 (118)

Like the game against Northwestern, this is one Penn State should take. The Lions are road favorites in Vegas and KenPom. While Indiana will be able to hurt them on the offensive glass, there is little else about this team that should be threatening to the Nittany Lions if they are the postseason team they want to be. 

The matchup of Indiana's go-to guy, Morgan, and Penn State's Lamar Stevens was likely going to be the key in this one until the injury to Davis. While he does not play a ton of minutes, he was going to occupy Mike Watkins whenever in the game. If he cannot go, Penn State has more flexibility in choosing how they want to defend Indiana and will make things tougher for the 6-foot-7 junior.

Speaking of Stevens and Watkins, they were the two dominating factors in the Nittany Lions' win over Northwestern Friday. Another strong performance from those two, who will have similarly favorable matchups on the offensive end tonight, will be a great sign that Penn State can take care of business. Watkins has been consistent throughout the season, but it was Stevens' 13-16 shooting that may be more important. Penn State is a different team with a confident and engaged Stevens.

Tony Carr, meanwhile, will look to have a bounce back game after a rather quiet showing in which he went only 2-9 from the field. Indiana has some options if they want to guard Carr with someone other than the 6-foot-1 Newkirk in Johnson, sophomore Devonte Green, and freshman Al Durham, but Carr should get his opportunities with some of the undersized lineups Indiana will throw out on the court. Recall his 23 point, 14 assist effort in the 3OT thriller in last year's matchup in Bloomington.

Josh Reaves and Jamari Wheeler are two who can make a difference in this one as well. On the whole, Indiana is an average team handling the ball (158th nationally in TO%). Wheeler and Reaves have been playing aggressive defense that has forced turnovers all season, with both in the top-15 in the country in steal rate according to KenPom. Expect the press to be utilized with Watkins able to guard the paint in the final line of the 1-2-2.


It's not so much that Penn State beat Northwestern at home, it's that it looked good doing it. Meanwhile, Indiana's win at Minnesota looks good on paper, but with that program in a bit of turmoil the result should not be all that surprising. I like the Nittany Lions to make it two in a row against a beatable team on the road. Penn State 78, Indiana 70.