STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Indiana coach Tom Crean issues periodical reminders to his players about his disdain for corner 3-pointers.
Austin Etherington provided an exception in the late going Saturday against Penn State.
The little-used sophomore forward collected himself after a pump-fake and drilled a 3-pointer from the spot Crean despises the most, giving the Hoosiers the lead for good in a 79-76 comeback victory over the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Etherington, averaging just 1.6 points coming in, missed a layup in his only other shot during the game but did not hesitate after getting one Penn State defender out of the way with a well-executed fake, then pulling up as another Nittany Lion ran at him with arms outstretched.
I felt good, Etherington said, and I felt it was the right shot.
One that propelled Indiana (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) to the biggest rally of Crean’s six-year tenure. The Hoosiers trailed by 15 points in the first half but avoided the program’s first 0-3 start in the Big Ten in three years behind Etherington’s gutsy shot and six free throws over the final 50 seconds.
I’m proud of the way we responded to the adversity of the game, Crean said. We grew up. We played with real confidence. We’re going to build on it.
Noah Vonleh scored a career-high 19 points for Indiana, including 12 straight to start the game to keep the Hoosiers in it when it appeared Penn State (9-8, 0-4) was ready to provide another emotional boost to the university on the same day the football program lured James Franklin away from Vanderbilt to replace Bill O’Brien.
While Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers welcomed Franklin to Happy Valley and wished him the best of luck, Chambers was more concerned about his own team’s inability to close out the Hoosiers.
He chastised leading scorer Tim Frazier for being limited to 10 points due to foul trouble – seven points under Frazier’s average – and shook his head at Indiana’s 18 offensive rebounds and 29-for-35 performance at the foul line.
We’re a whiny team right now, Chambers said. It’s got to stop.
DJ Newbill tied a career-high with 24 points for Penn State, but his 3-point heave with 3 seconds left hit the back of the rim as the Nittany Lions lost their sixth straight conference game.
We (play well) in spurts, but we don’t do it for 40 minutes, Chambers said. That’s why you’re 0-4. It’s going to click.
It’s got to.
With four starters gone from last year’s Big Ten championship team, Crean’s current group has struggled. Indiana fell in overtime at Illinois and was blown out on its home floor by No. 5 Michigan State last weekend.
A seven-day layoff followed, and it took Indiana a bit to get going against the Nittany Lions. The Hoosiers didn’t lead until 3-pointer by Will Sheehey just more than 3 minutes into the second half and the Hoosiers appeared to be ready to pull away when a Troy Williams dunk put Indiana up 59-53 with 13:18 to play.
Making matters worse for the Nittany Lions, Frazier walked to the bench 17 seconds later after picking up his fourth foul.
Rather than fold, Penn State surged.
Newbill hit a pair of jumpers to help the Nittany Lions settle down in Frazier’s absence, and John Johnson, a transfer from Pittsburgh, put Penn State back in front with a 3-pointer that made it 68-65 with 3:39 to play that set the stage for a wild finish. One that gave the Hoosiers a needed confidence boost after a bumpy start.
We never wanted to give up, Ferrell said.
I know we were down 15 a couple times, but we never let up.
The Nittany Lions attacked early as Penn State built a 31-16 lead. The Hoosiers rallied and trailed 41-37 at the break.