Photo by Mark Selders, Penn State Athletics

Indiana at Penn State: Game Day Essentials | Tale of the Tape | Keys to Victory

Big Ten play continues on Tuesday night for Indiana as they hit the road, traveling to Penn State.  One thing seems certain when these two teams meet — it’s going to be close.

The last seven meetings between Penn State and Indiana have been decided by an average of 3.85 points with the largest margin of eight occurring in a triple overtime contest in Bloomington in 2017.

We looked back at some of the more memorable close contests going into last year’s game at IU.  The series has produced buzzer beaters that counted, buzzer beaters that didn’t, and of course that triple overtime thriller.

Last year’s contest didn’t go off script.  IU earned a hard fought 74-70 victory at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in a game that was tight throughout.  It was the only meeting between the conference foes in the 2017-18 season.

GAME DAY ESSENTIALS

Indiana (6-2, 1-0) at Penn State (4-3, 0-1)

  • Tip time:  7:00 p.m. Eastern
  • Location: Bryce Jordan Center
  • Television:  BTN
  • Series:  Indiana leads 38-11
  • Point Spread:  Penn State is favored by 2.5
  • Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)

Pat Chambers is in his eighth season leading Penn State.  His record with the Nittany Lions is 117-125.

Projected Starters

Indiana

  • *Juwan Morgan, forward, 6-foot-8, 232 pounds
  • Justin Smith, forward, 6-foot-7, 227 pounds
  • Al Durham, guard, 6-foot-4, 181 pounds
  • Romeo Langford, guard, 6-foot-6, 215 pounds
  • Rob Phinisee, guard, 6-foot-1, 182 pounds

*Availability uncertain

Penn State

  • Lamar Stevens, forward, 6-foot-8, 230 pounds
  • John Harrar, forward, 6-foot-9, 243 pounds
  • Myles Dread, guard, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds
  • Jamari Wheeler, guard, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds
  • Josh Reaves, guard, 6-foot-5, 214 pounds

TALE OF THE TAPE

KEYS TO VICTORY

Can J-Mo go?  The story going into the game is as much about who is potentially not playing as who will see the floor.  We won’t know Juwan Morgan’s status until the players come out for pregame warmups.  Archie Miller gave some limited information on Monday night regarding Morgan’s lower leg injury, but his status remains uncertain.  As the team’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, there would obviously be a huge void if the senior co-captain cannot go.

If Morgan doesn’t play, look for Romeo Langford to be extra aggressive off the dribble, and expect a large dose of Devonte Green as IU will be looking for other scoring options.

Watkins working his way back.  Penn State is dealing with their own questions.  It has been a tough nine months for Nittany Lion big man Mike Watkins, who has dealt with a knee injury, legal troubles and mental health issues.

In 2017-18, Watkins led the Big Ten (and finished second in the nation) in field goal percentage (68.5). He was third in the Big Ten in rebounding (9.4 per game) and third in total blocks (68).

Penn State isn’t a particularly long team without Watkins.

Thus far in 2018-19, he has only played in the two most recent games and has come off the bench in those contests.  Pat Chambers recently indicated that Watkins is still playing himself into shape, and it sounds like he is on a similar timeline as De’Ron Davis — with the hope that he is back to full strength by January.  Davis and Watkins are likely to end up going head to head in this one.

Lamar Stevens is a tough cover.  With Tony Carr moving on to the NBA, Lamar Stevens has emerged as the clear leader for Penn State in terms of offensive production.  The junior forward is averaging 22.4 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Stevens can play inside and out, and the glaring question is — who is going to guard him.  Morgan would be one option, but even if healthy, guarding Stevens would put him at a higher risk of drawing fouls.  Justin Smith could also draw the assignment.  Perhaps this game will mark the return of Zach McRoberts to the starting lineup to take on the Stevens assignment.

Dealing with Penn State’s defense.  Penn State moved up to eighth in the defensive efficiency category according to KenPom — its highest ranking to date, and the best in the Big Ten.  Pat Chambers’ defense has been one of the key reasons why this is always such a tough game for Indiana, and this might be his best defensive unit.

With Josh Reaves averaging 2.6 steals per game, Indiana has to be much more sound with the ball on the road to avoid another Duke disaster.  Reaves is one of the more underrated players in the conference.  Indiana has to learn how to play composed and focused on the road, or this season could get sideways in a hurry.


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