UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Once again, the road is Indiana’s unbeatable foe.
Once again, victory was there for the taking in a cliffhanger and wasn’t.
The Hoosiers (10-3 overall, 1-2 in the big Ten) lost the rebound battle by 10 (39-29), the three-point-shooting battle by seven (11 baskets to 4) and the game, 61-58, Sunday evening.
Indiana has lost three road games by two (in overtime), by five and by three.
“The difference was they made threes and we didn’t,” coach Mike Woodson told Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer on his post-game radio show. “We had some good looks and didn’t knock them down. We have been shooting them well.”
IU, which entered the game shooting 37 percent from three-point range, was just 4-for-17 (23.5 percent).
Penn State (6-5) was 11-for-22 from beyond the arc against a Hoosier squad that had held its previous opponents to 28 percent.
“That’s where the game was won for them,” Woodson told Fischer. “They made two or three against the shot clock.
“Defensively, we weren’t touching guys. We weren’t up making them feel us like we have in the past. That’s disappointing.”
Penn State’s 61 points matched what IU has allowed this season.
Woodson wanted more.
“I thought us impacting the game from a defensive standpoint,” Woodson told Fischer, “wasn’t good enough for me. “
Opportunity was there to snap a six-game road losing streak. But in the closing seconds, with a chance to force overtime, Rob Phinisee and Trayce Jackson-Davis missed three pointers.
Penn State had 11 offensive rebounds. Jackson-Davis finished with five rebounds in 33 minutes.
Woodson noticed, and wasn’t pleased.
“I point the finger straight at Trayce,” Woodson told Fischer. “He had five rebounds in 33 minutes. That’s not good enough.
“He’s got to rebound. That’s his job. He’s the biggest player we have. He has to be a double-double guy. I will make sure he knows that.”
IU trailed 27-26 at halftime as Penn State, focused on getting physical with Jackson-Davis behind 6-9, 240-pound John Harrar and help defense, limited him to just five shots (he made three for six points).
The Hoosiers, making just 2-for-9 on three-pointers, couldn’t make the Nittany Lions pay.
The second-half emphasis was clear – get Jackson-Davis more shots.
In the first two minutes, Jackson-Davis scored five points (with two dunks) and had a steal. He also passed to guard Xavier Johnson for a three-pointer.
In the end, Jackson-Davis scored 14 second-half points, and finished with 20.
It wasn’t enough.
The close score wasn’t a surprise. Nine of the last 12 games between these teams have been decided by five or fewer points.
Indiana had its two best practices of the season entering the game, but it didn’t show early.
“I didn’t think we had any juice starting out,” Woodson told Fischer.
“I thought we were ready to play. Give (Penn State) credit. Their defense was solid.
“They packed it in and made us make shots from the perimeter. We have to make shots from the perimeter. We’ve made them early on. Our three-point shooting has been pretty good, but tonight we couldn’t make them.”
IU attacked the paint from the start. Its first 8 points came from there, four by forward Race Thompson (who finished with nine points and 10 rebounds). Miller Kopp then hit a three-pointer. A short time later, Thompson added one of his own, his third of the season, as the Hoosiers pushed ahead 16-11.
A four-minute scoring drought enabled Penn State to take a 19-18 lead.
Indiana inched ahead 26-22 thanks to an 11-2 edge in points off turnovers. Penn State stayed close thanks to 5-for-10 three-point shooting, then went ahead 27-26. Anthony Leal missed an open three-pointer as the half ended.
Jackson-Davis took the first shot of the second half, but missed, then followed with a free throw, a dunk (set up by a Thompson offensive rebound) and another dunk (off his steal), then passed for Johnson’s three-pointer and a 34-31 lead.
A frustrated Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry called a timeout and smashed his clipboard while making a point.
Consecutive IU turnovers led to consecutive Penn State three-pointers as the Nittany Lions surged ahead 39-36. A 13-2 run gave them a 46-38 lead. Jackson-Davis three-point play ended that run, but not Penn State momentum. It went ahead by 10.
Indiana ramped up the defense.
Phinisee helped spark a 9-0 run with consecutive baskets. IU closed within 51-50.
Jackson-Davis missed a layup for a 54-54 tie. Penn State grabbed five offensive rebounds in one possession and still couldn’t score.
Johnson hit a free throw. Phinisee drained a three-pointer. Jackson-Davis scored inside. IU trailed 59-58 and had the ball with 21 seconds left and a chance.
Jackson-Davis missed from inside. Penn State made a pair of free throws for a 61-58 lead with 13 seconds left.
Phinisee and Jackson-Davis missed three-pointers to end it.
IU plays again on Thursday when it hosts top-15 Ohio State.