STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Noah Vonleh scored a career-high 19 points, Yogi Ferrell added 15 and Indiana held off Penn State 79-76 on Saturday, Jan. 11.
The Hoosiers (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) trailed by as many as 15 early before rallying by the reeling Nittany Lions (9-8, 0-4) in the second half. Indiana took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from the corner by Austin Etherington with 1:22 left and made six straight free throws to avoid its first worst start in conference play in three years.
DJ Newbill tied a career-high with 24 points for Penn State, but his 3-point heave with 3 seconds left hit the back of the rim as the Nittany Lions lost their sixth straight conference game.
Ross Travis chipped in 13 points but leading scorer Tim Frazier was limited to 10 points and fouled out as Penn State’s beleaguered basketball program couldn’t provide another emotional boost on the same day the football program lured James Franklin away from Vanderbilt to succeed Bill O’Brien.
In front of a crowd well short of capacity, there was no sign or mention during the game of Franklin, who was to be introduced later in the day. But Penn State coach Pat Chambers — in the third season of his own rebuilding effort with the basketball program — opened his postgame press conference by wishing Franklin the “best of luck.”
Indiana took its first lead on a 3-pointer by Will Sheehey just over 3 minutes into the second half and the Hoosiers appeared to be ready to pull away when a Troy Williams dunk put Indiana up 59-53 with 13:18 to play. Making matters worse for the Nittany Lions, Frazier walked to the bench 17 seconds later after picking up his fourth foul.
Rather than fold, however, Penn State surged.
Newbill hit a pair of jumpers to help the Nittany Lions settle down in Frazier’s absence and John Johnson, a transfer from Pittsburgh, put Penn State back in front with a 3-pointer that made it 68-65 with 3:39 to play that set the stage for a wild finish.
Indiana trailed 72-70 after two Newbill free throws when Etherington caught the ball in the left corner. He pump-faked one defender out of the way, then launched a jumper over the outstretched arms of another. The ball splashed through the net and the Hoosiers were in front to stay.
Indiana survived on a day it shot just 36 percent (21 of 58) from the field by making 29 of 35 at the free throw line.
The Nittany Lions, looking to end a five-game losing streak against the Hoosiers, attacked early. Penn State built an early 15-point lead behind red-hot shooting from Newbill and Ross Travis, who knocked down his second 3-pointer to put Penn State up 31-16.
Indiana steadied itself as Williams and Ferrell finally got going. Ferrell needed 16 minutes to hit his first basket, but a deep 3 helped the Hoosiers get within 41-37 at the break. Some questionable shot selection by the Nittany Lions helped. Brandon Taylor missed all six of his 3-point attempts in the first half, a few of them from well behind the line early in the shot clock. The tempo allowed Indiana to get back in the game quickly and the large contingent of Indiana fans — most of them draped in red — roared when the Hoosiers raced into the locker room within striking distance.
Taylor’s miserable day wasn’t quite done. He launched a 30-foot 3-pointer with the Nittany Lions down a point with 50 seconds left. The shot missed badly and Frazier fouled out trying to chase down the rebound.