Christian Watford upped his energy output, Indiana held onto the ball early and Penn State never stood a chance in 74-51 road rout at the hands of the Hoosiers, now 2-0 in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten.
No. 5 Indiana (14-1, 2-0) blitzed Penn State, hitting 6-of-11 3-point field goals in the first half and eventually cruising to its easy win.
Credit to Penn State, which refused to fade, but the Nittany Lions could do no better than keep the score within two touchdowns, as the Hoosiers’ ball movement cut apart whatever defense it faced Monday, be it zone or man-to-man.
Watford led the way, scoring 13 points in the first half and finishing with 16 and eight rebounds. His energy at both ends of the floor was noticeably improved, his impact felt beyond simply through his scoring, as the senior forward played largely unrelenting defense and made several noticeable hustle plays.
His dynamism, sometimes lacking for the Hoosiers through the first half of this season, opened the floor for others, and Indiana raced to a 44-27 lead at halftime. Watford led the way with those 13 points in the first 20 minutes, but Jordan Hulls and Cody Zeller filled in ably behind him, scoring 10 and seven points apiece.
“We wanted to get him going,” IU coach Tom Crean said of Watford after the game.
The game slowed to Penn State’s preferred pace after the half, as the Hoosiers scored just 30 points after the intermission, but Penn State never closed the gap to less than 14 points in that second frame, as Indiana kept the Nittany Lions at arm’s length through the final buzzer.
Crean nitpicked through the box score afterward, in particular concerned with Penn State’s 35-33 rebounding advantage, and the Nittany Lions’ 17 offensive boards.
“We have tremendous respect for how Penn State rebounds,” Crean said, “but we did not do as good of a job.”
Even when Penn State created good moments, however, it failed to capitalize. The Nittany Lions, for example, were recipients of 17 IU turnovers, and yet they scored just nine points from those takeaways and mistakes. Seventeen offensive rebounds turned into only 14 points.
Conversely, Indiana turned 19 Penn State turnovers into 19 points, seizing on offensive and defensive mistakes. The Hoosiers racked up 14 assists on 22 made baskets, and other than Yogi Ferrell, Indiana’s starters shot 18-of-27 in a lethally efficient performance.
In a conference that’s been merciless to visitors early in the Big Ten schedule, Indiana now possesses two valuable road victories, with a surprisingly electric match-up with top-10 foe Minnesota looming Saturday.
“I think we've got a group of guys,” Crean said, “that two games into the league truly understand there's a lot of room to get better. It's one thing to know that as a coaching staff it's a whole different thing for players to understand that.”