Indiana made a statement on Wednesday evening with one of its more dominant first halves in recent memory, and that let them cruise to a 74-57 win over Penn State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Penn State never had a run of more than 4-0 in the first half while Indiana opened the game with a 12-0 lead and had subsequent runs of 9-0, 8-0 and 5-0, to blitz out to a 29-point first half advantage. The Hoosiers took their foot off the gas in the second half, but no amount of let up was going to erase that first 20 minutes.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers won with another edition of The Report Card, and we’ll overweight all the grades towards the first half, when Indiana built an insurmountable lead.
IU (15-5, 6-4) will travel to Maryland next for a 2:30 p.m. Eastern tip on Saturday in College Park.
With Penn State focused on slowing down Indiana’s front court, opportunities were created for others — and the Hoosiers ran more fluid, crisp offense and found the holes.
Of particular note, IU made 10-of-13 three-pointers, good for 76.9 percent and easily their highest conversion rate of the season.
“I thought the ball movement was great the first half,” head coach Mike Woodson said. “When Trayce was doubled and Race got doubled some, the ball was moving, and the defense really couldn’t catch up, so we got good looks that way.
“We got some early in transition where we got stops and the ball came up, and we was able to get what we call quick strikes for threes.”
Eight of IU’s ten threes came from players not named Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp, providing the versatility needed to keep the defense honest.
It was Indiana’s best 3-point shooting performance on at least 10 makes since the Elite 8 win over Kent State on March 23, 2002 when the Hoosiers were 15-of-19 (78.9%) from deep.
On the night IU had 15 assists on 26 field goals against nine turnovers, and spearheading the effort was Xavier Johnson, who probed effectively and used good judgment on deciphering Penn State’s defense and deciding when to pass or shoot.
“He is just getting everybody involved, making everybody feel good. I think he really helps our team,” Race Thompson said of Johnson.
Indiana converted on 80% of its free throws (12-of-15), with Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis combining to make 9-of-10.
Despite scoring just 28 points in the second half, IU had 1.23 points per possession for the game, its second best production on the season and best against a high major foe. The Hoosiers scored just .979 per possession at Penn State.
It was clearly a tale of two halves on the defensive end, but the Hoosiers set the tone and put the game away with an elite A+ first half effort.
Indiana’s defense forced Penn State to shoot 16.7% from the field in the first stanza, the Hoosiers’ third best defensive field goal percentage this year in a half.
High ball screen coverages were a major point of emphasis coming out of the Michigan loss and the first game against Penn State, and IU was dialed in on Wednesday.
“I thought our coverages, everybody was on par in terms of how we went into the game with a plan. “Our defense was really, really good the first half,” Woodson said.
Woodson wasn’t the only head coach who noticed a let up in the second half.
“They weren’t playing with the same fire that they played with in the first half,” Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry said of IU when asked how his offense was able to be more effective after the break.
After producing just 17 points in the first half, Penn State scored 40 on 8-of-16 3-point shooting with eight assists in the second half.
Woodson saw his team lose focus after the break on the very things they executed so well on in the first half.
“We had three to four times we had miscues on switches, and they made us pay for them,” Woodson said. “Again, you’ve got to stay with the game plan all the way through for 40. That’s what you got to commit yourselves to for 40 minutes. I thought we played 20 good minutes tonight.”
Indiana recorded 10 blocks for the game, the first time the Hoosiers had 10-plus blocks in a game since March 11, 2020 when Indiana beat Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State had 17 offensive rebounds, but that had a lot to do with their 40 misses from the field.
The Hoosiers allowed Penn State .947 points per possession, but according to the live stats they stood at just .531 at halftime.
MORE GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score, keys to the game and specialty stats
- Woodson, Thompson and Johnson post-game
- IU starters storm out of the gates
- Johnson emerging as point guard depth takes a hit
- Extended highlights:
Trayce Jackson-Davis (A-) With Penn State focused on him Jackson-Davis only got eight shots in 33 minutes, but he was excellent passing out of the post. He was also a force on the defensive end and appears to be healthy again. The one nit would be a relatively low rebounding total again vs. Penn State.
Race Thompson (A-) Thompson was a highly productive scorer with 18 points in 24 minutes. He had the first game of his career with multiple 3-pointers and he has made three of his last four from deep after missing nine in a row.
Miller Kopp (C+) Kopp was better relatively speaking as a perimeter defender in this game, but he wasn’t an efficient scorer and he had no rebounds in 22 minutes.
Parker Stewart (B-) Stewart was also better as a perimeter defender and he moved the ball well on the other end. Indiana still can’t figure out a way to get him more looks from behind the arc.
Xavier Johnson (A) For the third straight game Johnson was able to combine his elite speed with composure and for the most part good decision making. He’ll continue to see a high shot volume because that is often what the defense is permitting (or he is able to create), but when he makes 7-of-12 including a perfect 3-of-3 from three, IU will be hard to beat. Even with the most shots on the team he had six assists as well.
Jordan Geronimo (B) Geronimo had three rebounds and two blocks in nine effective first half minutes as he led the charge to keep the high level defensive play going off the bench. In the second half he drew the ire of Woodson with defensive lapses.
Rob Phinisee (B) Phinisee was a defensive menace in the first half. He did everything right but convert his attempts on the offensive end. But of course all eyes are now on his health as he left the game with a leg injury. He was unable to put weight on his right leg as he left the court.
Thank you for all the prayers and support! I’ll be back 🙏🏾
— Rob Phinisee (@robphinisee1) January 27, 2022
Trey Galloway (B) Galloway was a force defensively in the first half and he made a three. He struggled with turnovers trying to create through traffic.
Tamar Bates (A-) Is he back? Bates looked supremely confident as he stepped into two 3-pointers and made them both, his first makes from long range since Dec. 12. Bates was also highly effective guarding the perimeter in the first half and overall looked more comfortable on the floor. His return to high-level play would be timely if Phinisee projects to be out for an extended period.
Michael Durr, Anthony Leal, Khristian Lander and Logan Duncomb did not play or did not see meaningful minutes.
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