University Park, PA (Sports Network) - The Penn State Nittany Lions will put their impressive home mark on the line, as they entertain the Indiana Hoosiers in a Big Ten Conference battle on Monday night.
Indiana began the season as the nation's top-ranked team, and it backed up that claim by winning its first nine contests. It slipped in the rankings following a 88-86 overtime defeat at the hands of intrastate rival Butler on Dec. 15, but it has since bounced back with four consecutive wins, most recently going on the road on New Year's Eve and defeating Iowa, 69-65, in its conference opener.
Penn State has had a stellar start to the season thanks in large part to its play at home, having won seven of eight matchups at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions hit the road last Thursday for their conference opener at Wisconsin and suffered a 60-51 defeat, snapping a four-game winning streak in the process.
The Hoosiers have a firm handle on the all-time series with the Lions, winning 31 of the 40 matchups, which includes victories in three meetings last season.
While its four-point win over Iowa wasn't the dominant performance it has been used to this season, Indiana's ability to hang on to a single-digit lead down the stretch against a quality conference opponent on the road was certainly a positive sign. The Hoosiers shot a modest 40 percent from the field in the triumph, but they made up for it by holding the Hawkeyes to a mere 33.3 percent. Cody Zeller notched his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Victor Oladipo had his first with 14 points and 10 boards. Christian Watford (11 points, eight rebounds) and Will Sheehey (13 points) were also impressive. IU has been spectacular at both ends of the floor this season, as it ranks first in the nation in both scoring offense (87.9 ppg) and scoring margin (plus-28.3) while also ranking in the top-five in rebounding margin (plus-12.7). It has five players averaging double figures in the scoring column, led by one of the nation's best forwards in Zeller (16.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, .622 FG percentage). Oladipo (13.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) has also been incredibly efficient with his field goal attempts (.673), while Jordan Hulls (10.9 ppg) has made good on 36-of-70 tries from 3-point range. Watford (12.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Sheehey (12.4 ppg) add plenty of grit to one of the deepest teams in the country.
Penn State actually outshot Wisconsin in its latest game, .462 to .386, but it lost the turnover battle (15-4) and attempted just one free throw on the night. Jermaine Marshall did what he could to catapult his team to victory with 19 points, while D.J. Newbill added 12 points and eight rebounds and Ross Travis ripped down 11 boards. The Nittany Lions haven't been especially strong at the offensive end of the court this season, making a modest 41.2 percent of their field goal attempts for 64.3 ppg, but their saving grace has been a sound defensive showing as they hold opponents to 40.6 percent field goal efficiency and only 65.5 ppg. Newbill leads the way with 15.5 ppg and 3.9 apg, and Marshall is the only other player to average double figures on a nightly basis with 14.9 ppg. Travis has been a sound presence in the frontcourt with 7.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg.