Meet The Opponent: Penn State Now a Lethal Favorite

Tom Brew

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — There was a time when you could always plan on getting a win when you traveled to Penn State for a basketball game. Indiana picked on them in a big way when the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1992. The Hoosiers won eight times in their first nine trips to Happy Valley, and are 15-7 there all-time.

Those days are long gone. This Penn State is talented and experienced, and the Hoosiers will have their hands full Wednesday night. 

The Nittany Lions are the nationally ranked team these days, and Indiana isn't. And when the two teams get together Wednesday night for a huge Big Ten showdown, it's Penn State that is the heavy favorite, not the Hoosiers. Penn State is 3-1 at home in the league, beating Maryland, Iowa and Ohio State. They've lost at home only to Wisconsin.

"Penn State is really good this year because Myreon Jones has really changed the complexion of their team,'' Indiana coach Archie Miller said of Jones, the sophomore guard from Birmingham, Ala, who's scored 14 points or more 12 times already this season.   "He's a perimeter-orentiend player and when he's been scoring 20 a game,  that's given them a real lethal outside presence. They are also very good inside.''

Here are the particulars on Wednesday night's game: 

  • Who: Indiana Hoosiers (15-5, 5-4 in the Big Ten) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (14-5, 4-4 in the Big Ten)
  • When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Jan. 29
  • Where: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, Pa.
  • Latest Line: Penn State is a 6-point favorite as of Wednesday morning, according to VegasInsiders.com.
  • Poll rankings: Penn State is ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press poll and No. 23 in the Coaches poll. Indiana is receiving votes in both polls, and would be ranked No. 30 in each poll.
  • Kenpom.com rankings: Indiana is No. 38, Penn State is No. 22.
  • TV: Big Ten Network
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler, Seth Davis
  • Radio: Indiana Radio Network
  • Announcers: Don Fischer, Eric Suhr, Joe Smith

Here are three things to know about Penn State:

1. They will guard you, and guard you hard

Penn State coach Pat Chambers preaches defense, and it shows with how the Nittany Lions like to play. They will pressure the ball on the perimeter, and they are especially tough inside with Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins clogging things up. 

"Mike is playing career-best basketball and he's the biggest and best rim protector in the league,'' Miller said of the 6-foot-9 senior from Philadelphia who is averaging 9.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. "They keep him around the basket, and he's been scoring on the other end too, because he's so big.

"They play extremely hard and gritty. They've got tough kids and they play extremely hard at home. They've got some great quickness, too, and they have great numbers on the defensive end. They will be a challenge for us.'' 

2. They can be lethal from the perimeter

Penn State has been on fire from deep lately in its back-to-back wins over Ohio State and Michigan. The Nittany Lions had their best 3-point shooting night of the season (47.4 percent) against No. 21 Ohio State, and then shot 42.1 percent in the road win at Michigan.

it was the first time they had back-to-back games over 40 percent-plus from beyond the arc in nearly two years. They are 17-for-38 in those last two games, and five different players have made multiple threes in a game, so they can hurt you in a lot of directions.

PennStateCurtisJonesOSU
Penn State Nittany Lions guard Curtis Jones (4) passes the ball around Ohio State Buckeyes guard D.J. Carton (left) during the first half at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

3. A familiar face in former Hoosier Curtis Jones

One guy with the hot hand is former Indiana player Curtis Jones. The senior guard played his first two seasons at Indiana before transferring to Oklahoma State. He played there for one year, and then transferred to Penn State this season as a graduate transfer.

Jones, who's a 6-foot-4 guard from Richmond, Va., was a Tom Crean recruit. He played in 33 games for Crean as a freshman, but only played in seven during Archie Miller's first year in Bloomington, so he left. 

You know he'll be ready for tonight's game. He's been coming off the bench for Penn State, but he's getting about 18 minutes a game and he had a huge 18-point outburst last weekend in the win over Michigan. It tied a season high.

IndianaCurtisJones
Indiana Hoosiers guard Curtis Jones (0) passes in the first half against the Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena. Jones played two seasons for the Hoosiers.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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