FORT WAYNE – Indiana coach Tom Crean isn’t looking at Penn State’s 12-12 record or 3-8 mark in Big Ten play.
He also isn’t putting stock in the Nittany Lions having the worst-ranked defense in the conference, giving up 72.2 points per game.
Crean said he knows the Hoosiers (14-9, 4-6) face a challenge tonight as they play host to Penn State, which IU defeated 79-76 on Jan. 11.
“They play with tremendous confidence,” Crean said. “They play with a real edge. They get to the basket. They make free throws, and they are defending better.
“You can’t look at this team and judge them on percentages, you have to judge them on ability and their ability to create havoc on offense and defense, this is still a team that has the same people that we played against at the beginning of the Big Ten season, and they are that much more experienced now.”
Penn State has lost its last two games after a three-game winning streak, and Lions coach Patrick Chambers points to lacking a third scoring option as the reason for the recent losses.
D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier are the only Penn State players averaging double figures in scoring with Newbill getting 17.7 points per game and Frazier averaging 16.2.
“When we get a third scorer, we are tough to beat,” Chambers said. “We need to continue working on sharing the basketball and getting better every single game.”
Crean said he could see Penn State’s Brandon Taylor being that third scoring option tonight.
The sophomore forward made only 1 of 8 shots in IU’s first game against Penn State, but he is averaging 9.8 points.
“If there is one guy who is continuing to flourish, people would think it is Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill and they are, but Brandon Taylor is playing extremely well for them also,” Crean said.
Chambers said his team has to be able to handle IU’s Noah Vonleh and Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell leads IU’s offense with 17.6 points per game and averages 4 assists.
Vonleh is second on the team in scoring with 11.7 points per game, and he leads the Big Ten in rebounding with 9.5 per game.
In the Hoosiers’ win over the Lions, Vonleh had 19 points and six rebounds, and Ferrell had 15 points and seven assists.
“(Vonleh) did a fantastic job of using his body and really sealing and finding contact,” Chambers said.
“He got all of our bigs in foul trouble, he did a wonderful job. He is definitely a tough guard for us. When he does little things like that, and he can go over both shoulders. He hit a couple of 3s against us. He’s only taken I think 13 3s on the year, and I think he is 10 for 13.
“He’s a difficult matchup, and one I know coach Crean will try to ride if he thinks there’s a mismatch.
“Yogi is playing at such a high level. He’s playing out of this world. He’s up there with (Michigan’s Nik) Stauskas on level of play in this league right now.”