Sunday’s meeting between Indiana and Penn State was supposed to feature a matchup of the Big Ten’s two leading scorers. A season-ending injury to Geary Claxton, however, prevents that intriguing matchup and leaves the Nittany Lions at a serious disadvantage as they try for their first win at Assembly Hall.
Eric Gordon and the No. 9 Hoosiers (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) look to take advantage of Claxton’s absence as they try to extend an 11-game winning streak, their longest in 15 years.
Claxton tore the ACL in his left knee during Penn State’s 80-55 loss to No. 17 Wisconsin on Tuesday. The senior will undergo surgery later this month and miss the remainder of the season, ending his career with the Nittany Lions (10-6, 2-2).
Claxton was second in the Big Ten in scoring behind Gordon at 17.5 points per game, and was also averaging 8.4 rebounds. The swingman finishes his college career as the school’s fifth-leading scorer (1,542 points) and fourth-leading rebounder (755).
“It’s devastating for Geary,” coach Ed DeChellis said. “I just feel horrible for him. I really can’t put in words how I strong I feel about him as a kid.”
With Penn State missing its biggest scoring threat, it may have an even tougher time preventing the Hoosiers from continuing their longest win streak since a 13-game run during the 1992-93 season.
Indiana defeated Minnesota 65-60 on the road Thursday, holding the Gophers to 39.7 percent shooting and outrebounding them 42-26. The Hoosiers, however, committed a season-high 26 turnovers.
Gordon, averaging 22.3 points, was held to 12 on 3-of-8 shooting. He had seven turnovers and was limited by early foul trouble, but came up with two big free throws that put Indiana up by three with 31 seconds left.
Minnesota had gone ahead by two with 1:49 remaining, but Lance Stemler’s 3-pointer put the Hoosiers back in front before Gordon’s free throws. Stemler added two free throws to put it away.
“Weird game,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “To have 26 turnovers and find a way to win on the road, I don’t know that I’ve ever been around anything quite like that.”
After playing three of their last four away from Bloomington, the Hoosiers return to Assembly Hall for their next three. Indiana is 10-0 at home this season and has won 27 straight there since a 70-67 loss to then-No. 18 Iowa on Feb. 11, 2006.
That’s the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the nation, and Indiana is 14-0 against Penn State at Assembly Hall.
The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, are just looking to adjust to the loss of Claxton.
“We’ve got to figure out what our next move is and regroup as a team,” DeChellis said. “We’ve got to band together and bond together and go back to work.”
Jamelle Cornley will likely assume a bigger role in the offense with Claxton out. Cornley, who averages 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, finished with 13 points - 10 after halftime - Tuesday. He was the only Penn State player in double figures.
Penn State has lost two straight following a seven-game winning streak. The Nittany Lions fell behind 20-4 against the Badgers and never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Indiana leads the series with Penn State 26-3.