STATE COLLEGE — Penn State coach Pat Chambers partially attributed his team’s second-half outburst to the seven-day layoff it experienced leading up to Wednesday’s contest against Indiana.
After playing to a tie at the end of the first half, the Nittany Lions outscored the Hoosiers by 15 points during the second half to earn a 64-49 win on Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“Fresh legs, fresh minds,” Chambers said. “We had some time off between the last game and tonight, and I think you saw that in the second half.”
Penn State used stifling, aggressive defense to win its third straight game, and improve to 15-5 overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play this season.
Lamar Stevens, who Chambers said battled a cold this week, led all scorers with 17 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Former Indiana player and current Penn State senior Curtis Jones Jr. added 12 points.
“I just try to bring a spark off the bench every time I come in, whether we’re doing well or not,” said Jones Jr., who celebrated a birthday on Tuesday. “That’s what I try to do.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis paced the Hoosiers (15-6, 5-5 Big Ten) in scoring with 14 points, while Justin Smith finished with 13.
Penn State went 4-of-15 from the field through the first eight minutes and the Nittany Lions were 0-for-5 from 3-point territory before Jones connected on one from deep with 10:31 left in the first half.
Indiana’s offense didn’t fare much better early, either, as the Hoosier hit only six of their 18 attempts from the field. The Hoosiers late in the first half struggled through a 3:50 scoring drought that allowed Penn State to chip away at the lead.
The Nittany Lions went on a 6-0 scoring run during that time to take a 23-19 lead with 5:53 remaining in the 1st half.
Penn State returned the favor.
The Nittany Lions proceeded to go on a 2:28 scoring drought in the opening half, and Indiana managed enough offense to take a two-point lead with under a minute remaining before Stevens’ last-second basket sent both teams in the half with the score tied at 28.
The Nittany Lions began the second half on an 11-4 run that saw them lead the Hoosiers, 39-32, with 14:34 remaining. Penn State then used a 13-3 scoring run midway through the second half to steer momentum in its favor and push it to victory.
The Nittany Lions shot 13-of-32 (40.6 percent) from the field in the second half, while Indiana was 9-of-28 (32.1 percent) during the last 20 minutes.
Indiana committed 17 turnovers, which Penn State converted into 21 points.
“I think Penn State does a really good job with their pressure defense,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “I think in a lot of their switches, they take away a lot of stuff that you normally get. They’re a very good defensive team on the season. But we had some good looks that needed to go down. You have to make some shots.”
Penn State’s basketball team recognized Pennsylvania native and NBA great Kobe Bryant by wearing blue No. 24 T-shirts during pregame warmups, and each player donned one as they ran onto the court ahead of starting lineups.
Before the game, a video montage featuring Nittany Lions players thanking Bryant for his contributions to the sport played on the Bryce Jordan Center’s four-panel video board.
Nine lights, representing the nine victims of last Sunday’s deadly helicopter crash, shined from the video board onto the court.
Penn State travels to Nebraska (7-14, 2-8 Big Ten) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.