BY MICHAEL MAROT
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. —
Cody Zeller didn’t get a chance to carry Indiana on Wednesday night.
Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell and the Hoosiers’ defense took care of it.
With Zeller scoring a career-low two points and failing to make a basket for the first time since arriving in Bloomington, Oladipo finished with 19 points and Ferrell added a season-high 15 to lead the seventh-ranked Hoosiers to a 72-49 rout of Penn State.
“Cody did a lot of other things to impact the game and that’s why he’s such a great player,” Oladipo said. “He might have a slow night today, but he played tremendous defense. He still had 10 deflections and rebounded the ball. Sure we’ve got to step it up a little bit when he plays that, we’ve just got to play together.”
The Hoosiers (17-2, 5-1 Big Ten) did.
After a sluggish start, Indiana shot 58.8 percent in the second half and was 6 of 8 from 3-point range. The team that has been widely panned for its lack of defense, despite being seventh in the nation in defensive field goal percentage, limited Penn State to 33.3 percent from the field.
And while Nittany Lions challenged Zeller anywhere he went on the court, the Hoosiers improvised by finding other options and letting the 7-foot sophomore do the dirty work against extra bodies, extra hands and contested shots. The preseason All-America took only four shots Wednesday, yet finished with eight rebounds, three blocks, three assists and double-digit deflections, a stat coach Tom Crean charts every day.
But there was little for Crean to critique.
“He (Zeller) didn’t really look for that many opportunities to score,” Crean said. “I’m not concerned about that, he will. The one thing he’s got is constant team attention and what I mean by that is that he might be guarded by one person, but everybody knows when he has the ball.”
Zeller’s presence still opened things up for his teammates.
Oladipo was 4 of 7 from the field, 9 of 12 from the free throw line, had six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Will Sheehey scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Ferrell, a freshman, came into the game shooting 34.9 percent. He went 6 of 7 from the field and 3 of 4 on 3-pointers, including two at the start of the second half that helped the Hoosiers take control.
“Yogi did an excellent job tonight shooting the ball,” Crean said. “You could see it yesterday. We had probably the shortest practice of the year yesterday, so we lost some of our rhythm and it hurt us.”
Indiana won its second straight since losing to Wisconsin at home last week, and reasserted both its home-court advantage and its dominance in this lopsided series.
Penn State (8-11, 0-7) dropped to 2-17 all-time in Bloomington.
The Nittany Lions have lost seven straight overall, 12 straight Big Ten road games and lost for the second time to Indiana this season by a 23-point margin.
D.J. Newbill scored 18 points and Jermaine Marshall had 12 to lead Penn State, not nearly enough against the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense.
“I didn’t like our matchups,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “They’re a very talented group and as a coach, you have to do everything you can to help your team try to be successful. We mixed it up. We mixed it up a lot. We played zone, we played man, we disguised the zone, we disguised the man, we did different things and for a while it worked. But again, talent takes over and they start making 3s and that’s what kills you.”
There were other problems, too.
In the first half, the Nittany Lions shot just 29.6 percent from the field, managed only one 3 and matched the 19 points Ball State and Coppin State produced, the second-lowest point total in any half this season against Indiana. Northwestern scored only 17 points in the first half of the Hoosiers’ 67-59 win Sunday.
It could have been even worse as Indiana went 21 of 37 from the free throw line but that didn’t matter Wednesday.
The Hoosiers used runs of 7-0, 8-2 and 12-5 to take a 33-19 halftime lead, then started the second half by turning three straight defensive stops into an 8-0 run that made it 41-19 with 18:55 to play.
Indiana didn’t let Penn State get closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
“It’s a big emphasis on our team, because it seems like everybody in the country doesn’t think we have good second halves,” Oladipo said. “That’s their opinion and that’s fine. That’s what they say. At the end of the day, we’re going to do whatever it takes to finish strong because we’re not trying to beat Penn State, we’re trying to beat everybody in the country.”