Indiana improved to 15-5 overall and played 6-4 in Big Ten with an easy victory of 74-57 about Penn State Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers led wire-to-wire and improved to 13-1 at home this season. Here are five takeaways from the Nittany Lions victory:
Beginners set the tone with early running
Indiana’s starting lineup has been scrutinized for its slow start that often digs a hole for the bench.
The Hoosiers built up a five-point lead in the game’s opening minute on Wednesday. By the first media timeout, Indiana had already buried Penn State and led 15-2.
Not only was Indiana sharply offensive, but the energy on defense was a welcome change from Sunday’s defeat to Michigan. On Penn State’s first possession, Indiana forced a shot bell violation. The Hoosiers pushed the ball, landed in passing lanes and made the Nittany Lions uncomfortable from the opening point.
It was a show that Indiana’s beginners need to deliver more often.
The beginners were challenged by Mike Woodson after the Michigan defeat. Rather than change the lineup, Woodson gave his lineup a chance to respond. They have, which is a positive sign for this team’s growth.
“I think we took it personally,” Race Thompson said after the game. “I think it was really just about energy, just calming down a little bit, playing with more energy, but being composed at the same time and really engaging in what they were doing.”
Point guard depth an uncertainty moving forward
Indiana’s point guard depth got a hit when Rob Phinisee, the hero in the team’s 68-65 victory over Purdue, came down with a right leg injury in the first half.
Phinisee left the game with 7:21 left in the first half. He did not return to the game or the bench for the rest of the evening.
Mike Woodson did not have an update on Phinisee during the post-match press conference, except that he will be further evaluated on Thursday.
Woodson also revealed that Khristian Lander, who has not played since the Northern Kentucky game on Dec. 22, was unavailable to play due to injury.
“He would have played tonight if I could have stuck him there after Rob left,” Woodson said of Lander. “But he can not play.”
Happy for the Hoosiers, Xavier Johnson continued his strong play with a team-high of 19 points, six assists, four rebounds and three innings in 32 minutes.
If Phinisee and Lander are not available in Maryland on Saturday, it is likely that Johnson will score more than 30 minutes, which he has now done for three consecutive games.
Race Thompson finds its perimeter
Race Thompson was 3-of-25 from beyond the 3-point line that entered the Michigan game.
Thompson made a 3-pointer in the loss against Michigan and then followed that up with a 2-out-2 distance performance against Penn State.
The fifth-year senior is now 6-out-31 on 3-pointers this season, but 3-out-7 over the last two games.
As BTN analyst Jess Settles said on Wednesday’s broadcast, Thompson’s mechanics and release of the perimeter look good. Opponents left him wide open all season, but he could not capitalize until the last two games.
If Thompson, who scored 18 points in the Penn State victory, could occasionally kick in a 3-pointer, it would be a significant development for Indiana.
Trayce Jackson-Davis was often unstoppable in one-on-one coverage in the post. Surrounding Jackson-Davis with four viable 3-point threats to start games could force Indiana’s opponents to reconsider doubling the pole so frequently.
Tamar Bates gives a boost from the bank
Indiana freshman Tamar Bates began his college career with promise.
The 6-foot-5 guard scored in double figures in three of the team’s first eight games. He scored more than 20 minutes in four of those games.
But since scoring 13 points in a win over Nebraska on Dec. 4, his impact has been minimal. Over the last 10 games in which Bates has appeared, he has averaged just 1.6 points per game. He has made just two of his last 12 3-point attempts.
Bates scored six points in 15 minutes on Wednesday. He also had a setback, an assist and a blocked shot. He did not commit a turnover.
It was a show that could boost Bates’ confidence, which has the skills to provide immediate attack as part of Indiana’s second unit.
Energy dwindles in the second half
Mike Woodson told Don Fischer after the game that his team played a “great” first half.
But Woodson, who never shies away from the truth when evaluating his team, said the Hoosiers “stinked” in the second half.
It was a place-to-assessment.
After shooting Penn State in the first 20 minutes to 1-out-10 3-point shooting and holding 16.7 percent off the field, Indiana was outscored in the second half.
Penn State made eight of its 16 3-point attempts in the second half, scoring 1.38 points per possession.
Indiana was able to get away with the faint second half because it had already buried Penn State in the first six minutes.
However, Woodson reiterated that he will need a more complete effort from his team to win on the road in Maryland this weekend.
“We have to commit ourselves for 40 minutes to go there and achieve a victory,” he said. “It will not be easy, but we are able to win on the road. We proved it in Nebraska. ”