Lions looking for 'free' points

Indiana has plenty of ways to hurt you when the clock is running. Five different Hoosiers average in double figures, and the Big Ten's top scoring offense is just as likely to light you up from the outside, with Jordan Hulls or Christian Watford, as it is in the paint, with 7-footer Cody Zeller.

Penn State is second in the conference in free-throw percentage in Big Ten play but averaging just 15.5 attempts per game.

But the Hoosiers (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten), who host Penn State (8-10, 0-6) at 7 p.m. tonight in Assembly Hall, can also do plenty of damage when the clock isn't running.

In five Big Ten games, Indiana is averaging 20 free throws made per game. Only two other teams in the conference (Michigan and Northwestern) are averaging 20 free throws attempted in Big Ten play.

When the teams met in State College on Jan. 7, Indiana went to the line 34 times (compared to Penn State's 11 trips) and out-scored the Nittany Lions 22-8 there in a 23-point win.

Penn State, its 1-of-6 performance at the free-throw line during the final 24 seconds of Saturday's loss to Nebraska aside, has been the Big Ten's second-best free-throw shooting team (.710) since conference play began. The problem is that the Nittany Lions aren't often getting to the free-throw line (15.5 times per game), even though their top two scorers, guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, get the majority of their points on drives to the basket.

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, who has watched his team shoot just 13 free throws total in road trips to Wisconsin and Purdue, thinks his players need to worry less about drawing contact and more about getting the ball in the hoop.

"We all want to draw the fouls instead of making the layup," he said. "Just go up and make layups. If they see you go up strong, they'll call the foul. Just go up and try to make the layup. They have to continue to be aggressive."

Opponents have been crowding the lane on Newbill and Marshall because of Penn State's lack of an outside threat; the Nittany Lions are shooting 27 percent from the arc in conference play and averaging just four made threes per game.

"Every now and then we've got to do some jump stops and dribble throughs," Chambers said. "Just to get some open threes."

Even if the Nittany Lions can somehow equal the Hoosiers in trips to the line this evening, their ability to hang with the nation's seventh-ranked team will be determined by what they do at the defensive end. The Hoosiers shot 52 percent in the first meeting and each of Penn State's four other opponents since that game has shot at least 45 percent against the Nittany Lions, who are surrendering 68.8 points per game in Big Ten play.

Chambers has said all season long that the key to getting his team to play at its highest level is a consistent effort at the defensive end. The Hoosiers will test every part of that defense tonight, but Penn State's coach remains optimistic.

"We're close. I can feel it," he said. "Does that mean Wednesday? I don't know. Does that mean Saturday? I don't know. We've just got to keep a clear head and minimize distractions."

Skip To Comments

Already have an account? Sign In