BLOOMINGTON – From the opening minutes tonight, Indiana's strategy was obvious: get to the rim.
The Hoosiers have a height advantage against Penn State, whose top five scorers are all 6-foot-6 or shorter and it seems that Indiana is determined to make that advantage hurt. IU's guards are attacking the hoop from the perimeter against the Nittany Lions' pressure defense and have been successful in getting there, with wings Armaan Franklin, Trey Galloway, Al Durham and Jerome Hunter all scoring in the lane. After 20 minutes, the Hoosiers are shooting 54% from the field and have 20 points in the paint. The result is a 38-33 Indiana lead in a game it absolutely has to have.
It's good to see Indiana get more aggressive driving to the rim. Its half-court offense has been prone to stagnation all year and one sure way to get some flow going is to create off the dribble and force opposing defenses to adjust. Once a couple of baskets go in near the rim, defenses start collapsing on drivers and 3-point shooters will be open on the perimeter. That's Offense 101 and too often Indiana has struggled to make it happen this season. That hasn't been the case tonight as the Hoosiers got to the hoop almost every time they tried early. Freshman Trey Galloway has been on of Indiana's most aggressive players going to the rim tonight and that's great to see. It's why he's started the last two games. In addition to its 20 points in the paint, Indiana is 9 for 12 at the foul line. Things got more difficult later in the half once Penn State went to a 3-2 zone aimed at keeping the Hoosiers out of the lane, but Indiana was able to move the ball well enough to get some open shots and knocked down just enough outside jumpers to stay in front. IU is 3 of 10 from 3-point range.
The situation on defense has been much the same: Indiana is playing relatively well with some help from a Penn State team that doesn't have it all together. The Nittany Lions have turned the ball over nine times and many of those giveaways have been through bad passes or other carelessness with the ball. They started out shooting poorly, as well, missing eight of their first 11 attempts, but they got a little hot in the later portion of the half and are up to 48% shooting at halftime. They're 5 for 13 from beyond the 3-point line, which is right in line with their season averages. They shoot a lot of 3s, but they also make a good percentage and they're doing that tonight.
Indiana's biggest problem is that it hasn't taken advantage of Penn State turnovers. The Nittany Lion miscues have led to only eight Hoosiers points and IU isn't getting out on the break hardly at all. Jackson-Davis has been stymied most of the half by Penn State's zone and although he's been good at drawing attention, IU would probably still like him to be getting the ball a little bit more. He has eight points, but on only four attempts. The 6-9 forward is scoring at will almost whenever he looks at the hoop and if this game is close down the stretch it will be up to him to make some winning plays.