Penn St Indiana Basketball

Indiana guard Xavier Johnson looks to make a move while being defended by Penn State guard Jalen Pickett during the second half of Wednesday’s game at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana closed out its three-game homestand with a dominating first half and a sluggish finish, but it was enough for the Hoosiers to beat Penn State 74-57 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Indiana starting point guard Xavier Johnson paced three scorers in double figures with 19 points and six assists. Johnson logged 32 minutes because backup Rob Phinisee suffered a leg injury in the first half and did not return. Indiana coach Mike Woodson said postgame third-string point guard Khristian Lander also was unavailable due to an injury.

Senior forward Race Thompson added 18 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was active scoring inside and protecting the rim with 15 points and four blocked shots.

With Indiana up 67-40, Penn State went on a late 13-0 run, cutting Indiana’s lead to 67-53 on an inside basket by John Harrar with 3:15 left. Johnson restored order for Indiana with five straight points on a driving basket and 3-pointer to pad IU’s lead back to 72-53.

Indiana (15-5, 6-4 Big Ten) improved to 13-1 at home and avenged a 61-58 loss at Penn State on Jan. 2. The Hoosiers jumped to a 46-17 halftime lead, shooting 57.1% from the floor and 75% (6-of-8) from 3-point range.

“It’s probably our best game in terms of a half that we put together in the Big Ten,” Woodson said. “We had some earlier games this season when we started where we had halves where we were holding opponents to less than 20 points, but to do it against a Big Ten team, man, I thought our coverages, everybody was on par in terms of how we went into the game with a plan. That was on both ends of the floor, but our defense was really, really good the first half.”

Jalen Pickett led Penn State (8-9, 3-6) with 14 points, with Harrar adding 13 points and nine rebounds. Penn State shot 50% (8-of-16) from 3-point range in the second half to avoid a lopsided blowout but couldn’t overcome shooting 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half to fall into a 29-point deficit.

IU was seeking a lift from its starting lineup after two straight performances that put the Hoosiers in an early hole. The starters responded with the needed energy on both ends of the floor, helping IU jump to an early 12-0 lead.

Thompson and Johnson made back-to-back 3-pointers to put IU up 8-0. Then, after a pair of free throws from Jackson-Davis, Johnson made a driving basket to put IU up 12-0.

“That’s something we have to bring every single game as starters,” Thompson said. “That’s the main thing. We just talked about it for the past two days, of getting off to better starts.”

The Nittany Lions didn’t score their first basket until the 15:13 mark of the first half, on a Seth Lundy basket in transition off an Indiana turnover.

“They were a hungrier team. They were a grittier team. They were a tougher team,” Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “And that’s what you saw to start the game, and that’s what you saw at the end of the game.”

Indiana maintained its defensive focus for the rest of the half, holding Penn State to 5-of-30 shooting and 1-of-10 from 3-point range while blocking eight shots. The most impressive block came late in the first half, when sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo closed out to block a Myles Dread corner 3-point attempt and force a shot-clock violation.

It sent a message – there would be no easy 3-point attempts, after Penn State burned Indiana from the 3-point line in the first meeting, shooting 50% (11-of-22) from beyond the arc.

Offensively, IU remained hot from the perimeter, making its first six 3-point attempts. Back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Parker Stewart and Tamar Bates put Indiana up 39-10.

The Hoosiers maintained the 29-point lead for the rest of the half. Shrewsberry was not happy with Penn State’s defensive intensity in the first 20 minutes

“People are going to make shots at home, but they were making shots uncontested,” Shrewsberry said. “They were getting whatever they wanted offensively. We weren’t in their area code.”

Penn State was hampered with foul trouble throughout the first half as its two frontcourt starters – Harrar and forward Greg Lee – each picked up two first-half fouls. IU limited the inside duo to just 10 points in the first half.

“It really just starts for us on defense,” Thompson said. “If we can get some stops, we’re feeling good about ourselves, and then our offense will come.”

KEVIN BROCKWAY covers college and pro sports in the state of Indiana for CNHI newspapers.

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INDIANA 74, PENN STATE 57

PENN ST. (8-9)

Harrar 4-6 5-5 13, Lee 1-7 3-4 5, Lundy 2-8 0-0 5, Cornwall 0-4 0-0 0, Pickett 5-11 0-0 14, Dread 3-10 0-0 9, Sessoms 3-8 0-0 6, D.Johnson 1-3 0-0 3, White 1-2 0-0 2, J.Scott 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-60 8-9 57.

INDIANA (15-5)

Jackson-Davis 5-8 5-6 15, Kopp 2-6 0-1 5, Thompson 6-10 4-4 18, X.Johnson 7-12 2-2 19, Stewart 1-4 0-0 3, Geronimo 1-3 0-0 2, Galloway 2-3 1-2 6, Bates 2-2 0-0 6, Phinisee 0-3 0-0 0, Duncomb 0-0 0-0 0, Leal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 12-15 74.

Halftime–Indiana 46-17. 3-Point Goals–Penn St. 9-26 (Pickett 4-7, Dread 3-9, D.Johnson 1-1, Lundy 1-3, Sessoms 0-1, Cornwall 0-2, Lee 0-3), Indiana 10-13 (X.Johnson 3-3, Bates 2-2, Thompson 2-2, Galloway 1-1, Kopp 1-2, Stewart 1-3). Rebounds–Penn St. 31 (Harrar 9), Indiana 26 (Jackson-Davis, Thompson 6). Assists–Penn St. 10 (Pickett 5), Indiana 15 (X.Johnson 6). Total Fouls–Penn St. 16, Indiana 11.

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