BLOOMINGTON – After falling behind early against Purdue and Michigan in recent games, Indiana spent the days leading up to Wednesday's clash with Penn State focusing on getting off to a fast start.
The Hoosiers did that and then some, blitzing the visiting Nittany Lions and building a first-half lead that reached as many as 31 on the way to a 74-57 victory at Assembly Hall.
“We just came out with more energy and that's something we have to bring every single game as starters,” forward Race Thompson said. “We just talked about it the last two days, getting off to bad starts ... and we came out and we responded.”
Xavier Johnson scored 19 points, dished six assists and grabbed four rebounds, Trayce Jackson-Davis chipped in 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and four blocks and Thompson had a season-high 18 points.
The Hoosiers (15-5, 6-4 Big Ten) went 10 of 13 from beyond the arc.
The lone drawback to the Hoosiers' night was a first-half ankle injury suffered by point guard Rob Phinisee, who appeared to twist it as he landed with a rebound. He could not put weight on the ankle and was helped from the court before immediately getting hustled to the locker room. The senior captain did not return to the game.
Indiana coach Mike Woodson did not have an update on Phinisee's condition other than to note he would be evaluated today. He expects Khristian Lander to play more if Phinisee is out, but said Lander was not available Wednesday because of an unspecified physical issue.
Despite the early struggles in Indiana's last two games, Woodson went with his usual starting lineup and his faith was rewarded when the Hoosiers scored the game's first 12 points. Thompson drilled an early 3, one of two on the night for a player who had four all season coming in, Johnson added another shot from deep and the Nittany Lions went 4:47 before they scored.
The rest of the first half was much the same, as Indiana combined fundamentally-sound defense with strong work on the glass and a hot-shooting offense that made its first six 3-point attempts.
At halftime, the Hoosiers were shooting 57% while Penn State (8-9, 3-6) was held to 17%.
The game turned into a true blowout late in the first half when Indiana embarked on a 17-2 run that culminated in back-to-back 3s for Parker Stewart and freshman Tamar Bates to put the Hoosiers ahead 39-10 with 4:45 left in the period. The Nittany Lions missed 10 straight shots during the Indiana spurt, which also included six points in a 1:53 span for Thompson.
“It's probably our best game, in terms of a half, we've had in the Big Ten,” Woodson said. “Our coverages, everybody was on par. ... Our defense was really, really good the first half.”
The Nittany Lions out-rebounded Indiana 21-7 after halftime and hit 8 of 16 from 3-point range in the second half.
A 13-0 Penn State run cut its deficit to as few as 14 with 3:15 left.
Johnson responded with five quick points on a driving runner off glass and a 3 to put the game away.
“I thought we played 20 good minutes tonight,” Woodson said.