Penn State and No. 19 Indiana met just once during the regular season, but the Nittany Lions canned enough 3-pointers for at least two games.
Penn State sank a school-record-tying 18 3-pointers on just 31 attempts to roll to an 85-66 win on Jan. 11 in State College – the Nittany Lions’ largest victory margin over the Hoosiers in school annals.
Chances are good third-seeded Indiana (22-10) will remember how that game played out when they meet 10th-seeded Penn State (21-12) in Saturday’s second Big Ten tournament semifinal. Penn State seniors Seth Lundy and Andrew Funk cashed seven 3-pointers apiece as the Hoosiers didn’t exactly defend them how head coach Mike Woodson directed them to.
So what might change Saturday?
“We’ve just got to listen to Coach Woodson and our defensive philosophy,” said Indiana All-America forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. “We know what we need to do in order to be in the game. We’ve just got to be able to guard the 3-point line and stay in front of them on drives.”
Both teams are enjoying rare Big Ten tournament air. For the Nittany Lions, who have won seven of their last eight to presumably get off the NCAA Tournament bubble, it’s just their fourth Big Ten tournament semifinal appearance and they reached their only final in 2011.
Indiana, meanwhile, also has earned just one tournament final appearance. That came in 2001 when former Indiana star Luke Recker led Iowa to a 63-61 title-game triumph.
“What we’ve been doing lately and the fight from this team, everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s engaging,” Jackson-Davis said. “We came here for one reason: That’s to win a championship, and I think everybody understands that. We’re going to play as hard as we can to get that done.”
Indiana didn’t have senior power forward Race Thompson for the first meeting with Penn State – as he was in the early stages of recovering from a knee injury. Thompson’s presence gives Indiana an even bigger size and strength advantage.
Penn State, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to fret about such issues. Per KenPom, the Nittany Lions rank last in the country in offensive rebound percentage and free throws per field-goal attempt.
But Penn State more than makes up for it by ranking sixth nationally in turnover percentage (13.7 percent of possessions) and eighth in 3-point accuracy (38.8 percent). The Nittany Lions found a way to overcome Northwestern in Friday’s quarterfinals despite committing a season-worst 15 turnovers and hitting just five 3-pointers in regulation. They added two more in overtime.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry. “I think (Friday night) was the definition of probably gritty, not pretty. We’re showing that we can win in a couple different ways. We can go bombs away from three. We can be a great offensive team.
“But you can’t have that night every night. And here recently, our defense has been really good. If we’re not making shots, we can guard people and grind out some tough wins.”
–Field Level Media