BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Indiana found a combination that worked and stayed with it.
Eric Gordon scored 25 points, D.J. White added 22 and the No. 9 Hoosiers, keeping the same lineup the entire second half, wore down Penn State 81-65 on Sunday.
“It was a slow-paced game. They were zoning us,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Usually you make a substitution for fatigue or for foul trouble. But I liked the way they were playing, so I saw no reason to make a substitution.”
The Hoosiers (16-1, 5-0 Big Ten) won their 27th straight home game and stretched their winning streak this season to 12 games, their longest in 15 years.
“Once we got to halftime, the quality of shots, the ball movement, was as good as we’ve played all year in the second half,” Sampson said. “We had maybe two turnovers. That’s just a high level of play. … The second half was outstanding at both ends.”
Penn State (10-7, 2-3), which lost leading scorer and rebounder Geary Claxton with a season-ending knee injury against Wisconsin on Tuesday, came out strong, stayed with the Hoosiers most of the game and led 52-51 before a 3-pointer by Gordon started a 14-4 run that put Indiana in control. White had Indiana’s next five points and assisted on another basket by Jamarcus Ellis, and the Hoosiers began pulling away for good.
“It was a stretch where we needed to pick it up,” White said. “We needed somebody to step up and the guards did a good job finding me open at the right time.
“There’s always a lot of work to be done. That’s what practices are for, to get better each game.”
White, Gordon, Ellis, Armon Bassett and Lance Stemler played all 20 minutes in the second half.
“It all started with our defense,” Ellis said. “Even in the second half, we came out a little lackadaisical but we started to pick it up the last 7-8 minutes. We knew they were going to play hard without Claxton.”
Two free throws by Talor Battle were the only points by the Nittany Lions in the next 4 minutes after White’s scoring burst, and two free throws by Gordon, a 3-pointer by Bassett and a layup by Gordon pushed Indiana’s lead to 72-58. Penn State, which has never won in 15 games at Assembly Hall, never came closer than 12 points the rest of the way, and Indiana took its biggest lead at 81-60 in the closing seconds.
“We were trying to keep them away from the basket. We got a little soft with our zone,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “We hit that little stretch there where we weren’t really active. … We were OK for 30 minutes; unfortunately, this is a 40-minute game.”
Bassett added 17 points and Ellis finished with 12 for the Hoosiers. Battle, a freshman, had a career-high 20 points and Jamelle Cornley added 19 for Penn State. Freshman Jeff Brooks, who started in place of Claxton, had six points.
“This is the first time out without him,” DeChellis said of the loss of Claxton. “Talor played well, Jamelle played well. We just need to find another guy who can score.”
Despite the loss of Claxton, who was second in the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding, the Nittany Lions stayed with Indiana in the first half, even after a 10-0 run gave the Hoosiers an early 12-6 lead.
Four of Penn State’s first five field goals were 3-pointers, then a basket and two free throws by Cornley and a 3-pointer by Stanley Pringle tied the game for the first time at 22. After a turnover by Indiana, Pringle was fouled on a layup and converted the three-point play with a free throw for a 25-22 lead.
There were two more ties and three lead changes over the final 5 minutes of the first half.
Gordon’s fourth 3-pointer tied the game at 32, then Ellis stole the ball, was fouled and hit both free throws to put the Hoosiers back in front. After a turnover by Penn State, Lance Stemler hit a 3-pointer for the Hoosiers before Battle’s basket in the final seconds made it 37-34 at the break.
A 3-pointer by Battle gave Penn State its final lead at 52-51, and a basket by Cornley tied it for the final time at 54 before two straight baskets by White put Indiana ahead to stay.
“Unfortunately, they hit some pretty deep 3s and penetrated the zone, which allowed them to get some easy baskets,” Cornley said. “Right now, we’re trying to figure out who’s going to step up. We’re searching right now.”