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IU basketball game day: Hoosiers facing what look like “must wins” starting with Penn State

It only took nearly ten months — but Indiana vs. Penn State is finally here.

Many of the faces, and in Penn State’s case, the coach changed from what was supposed to be a second round Big Ten Tournament game in March.

Nothing has been the same since the day that game was canceled, and a nearly empty Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will serve as a reminder that we have a long way back to normal.

Speaking of normal — Indiana has pulled out hard fought wins over Penn State in Bloomington with a high degree of regularity.  They’ll need to do that again on Wednesday night to avoid a disastrous start to conference play.


GAME DAY ESSENTIALS

Penn State (3-3, 0-2) at Indiana (5-4, 0-2)

  • Tip time:  8:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
  • Television:  Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler and Robbie Hummel)
  • IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, Joe Smith)
  • Series:  Indiana leads 40-12 (Indiana won last meeting 68-60 in 2020)
  • Point Spread:  Indiana is a 5.5-point favorite
  • KenPom has No. 23 Indiana by 5 points over No. 54 Penn State

Penn State is led by interim head coach Jim Ferry.  As the head coach at Duquesne, Ferry was 1-7 against Archie Miller at Dayton.

See also:  Miller looking for more from veteran guards


MEET THE NITTANY LIONS

Likely Starters

# NAME POS. HT. WT. ELG. PTS REB

1 Seth Lundy F 6-6, 219, So. 13.0, 3.5
21 John Harrar F 6-9, 240, Sr. 6.7, 6.0
0 Myreon Jones G 6-3, 180, Jr. 13.3, 2.5
5 Jamari Wheeler G 6-1, 170, Sr. 5.3, 4.0
12 Izaiah Brockington G 6-4, 200, Jr. 15.2, 5.2

Key Reserves

15 Trent Buttrick F 6-8, 240, Sr 2.2, 4.7
2 Myles Dread G 6-4, 220, Jr. 8.7, 2.8
3 Sam Sessoms G 6-0, 188, Jr. 11.8, 1.3

Superlatives

Brockington leads the Nittany Lions in scoring and has double-figure totals in 5 of the 6 games with two 20-point games in last 3 contests. Shooting 58.1 (25-43) from field in last 3 games.

Wheeler ranks second in the Big Ten and 28th nationally with a 3.5 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Ranks seventh in Big Ten in assists with 4.7 per game.

Sessoms is the only Nittany Lion to score in double figures in all 6 games, all off the bench, with 10 in his Big Ten debut at Michigan and 12 vs. Illinois.

As a team Penn State is No. 30 in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 21 in turnover rate (15.4 percent).  The Nittany Lions are No. 71 in adjusted defensive efficiency, headlined by a 11.9 percent steal rate (No. 37).

Illinois was the last opponent for both teams. Here are the highlights from Penn State’s encounter with the Illini in a 98-81 loss.

MILLER IMPRESSED WITH THE PENN STATE GUARDS

Penn State looks a lot different than last year’s NCAA Tournament bound 21-10 squad led by head coach Patrick Chambers.

After Chambers’ sudden November departure and some personnel losses, the Nittany Lions have taken on more of an offensive identity.

“The team and season that Penn State had last year – they had a great year,” IU head coach Archie Miller said on Monday.  “They lost Lamar Stevens and they lost Big Mike (Watkins) who was inside but to me, as I watch them play this year, they’re actually way more difficult to defend.”

Similar to Illinois, the Nittany Lions should give IU plenty of four guard looks.

Penn State has four regulars that are above 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

“Seth Lundy and Myles Dread play more of a four-guard lineup and their guys can really shoot the three,” Miller added.  “When you look at Myreon Jones, (Izaiah) Brockington, they have a transfer in (Sam) Sessoms who has really brought a different dimension to their scoring. Then they have (Jamari) Wheeler back who is an integral part of their defense and how they play.

“They have a good system, they haven’t changed much and to me, they’re explosive on offense. They shoot the crap out of the ball from three. They put serious runs on. They’re guard heavy in terms of their firepower.”

While the Nittany Lions are generally thought to be a bottom-tier team in the league this year, Miller knows better than to let his guard down, especially with his team off to an 0-2 start in the conference.

“To me, Penn State’s record is 3-3 but they’ve played a good schedule,” he added.  “I think they can beat anyone in the league, they did it a year ago and a lot of guys were a part of that team. There are no nights off in this league.”

A MUST WIN GAME?

Miller wasn’t kidding when he said there are no nights off in league play this year.

The Big Ten placed a record nine teams in the AP-top 25 on Monday.

Indiana and Penn State are two of the five conference teams excluded from the national polls, and IU will see the other three over the next two weeks.

Tucked around a road trip to No. 6 Wisconsin are home games against Maryland and Purdue, and a game at Nebraska.

If the Hoosiers cannot build some momentum over this stretch of five games, it is reasonable to wonder if they ever will in 2021.


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