STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Archie Miller was thankful his team could turn a sluggish start into an early, unbeaten advantage in the Big Ten.
Indiana’s coach knows wins don’t come easy in this league, especially for road teams that come out of the locker room flat like the Hoosiers did in their 64-62 win over Penn State on Tuesday night.
Romeo Langford scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half and the Hoosiers overcame an early 9-0 deficit marred by turnovers, missed shots and missed rebounds to win their second in a row.
“When you’re on the road, you know you’re going to deal with, especially the first four to eight minutes, some type of punch,” Miller said. “We’re not doing a very good job of handling that right now. We’re soft coming out of the gates.”
Rob Phinisee and Al Durham added 12 points apiece, Juwan Morgan chipped in 10 points and Justin Smith grabbed nine rebounds for the Hoosiers (7-2, 2-0 Big Ten), who won their second in a row.
Rasir Bolton led Penn State (4-4, 0-2) with 17 points, Myles Dread had 12 points and Lamar Stevens added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Nittany Lions. Stevens had a final shot foiled by Phinisee, who ripped an inbounds pass away from him in the waning seconds before Smith recovered the ball to preserve the Hoosier’s win.
Penn State coach Pat Chambers lamented his team’s early missed chances and noted that the Nittany Lions, who have three, one-possession losses so far, are a “few points away from being 8-0.”
“We let them stay in the game,” Chambers said. “We should have had a commanding lead.”
Instead, the Hoosiers led 34-30 at halftime and opened the second with a 12-2 run to build a 14-point advantage just over five minutes in.
They maintained a comfortable lead for much of the half, and a jumper from Evan Fitzner made it 63-52 Indiana with 3:58 left.
But Bolton led a 10-1 run with nine points over that stretch in the final 3:14. His layup with 22 seconds left was the final basket.
The Hoosiers closed the early 9-0 gap with a 10-1 run fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers from Devonte Green. Langford gave Indiana its first lead of the game with a 3-point play that made it 13-0 just over midway through the half.
NOTHING’S FREE OR EASY
Penn State made only 23 of 62 field goals and were just 5-for-21 shooting from 3-point range. The lousy shooting night was compounded by the Nittany Lions missing high-percentage shots. They were just 11 of 26 from the free-throw line and made only nine of 28 layups.
“Just missing them,” Chambers said. “I wish I had some clever answer for you, I just don’t.”
The Hoosiers had been averaging 80 points per game but were well under that for the third-straight night.
Miller will take that if he gets the kind of defense he got from Phinisee — who made the final defense play to swat the ball away from Stevens — and from Langford who gave Penn State guard Josh Reaves fits all game.
Phinisee and Langford combined for 10 defensive rebounds over 63 minutes while Phinisee added a block and a steal.
“Both guys are playing a lot of minutes,” Miller said. “They’re working very hard and I think we trust them as much as we trust anybody on the team.”
Indiana: Morgan’s health was of concern entering the night after he failed to finish Saturday’s game against Northwestern due to a right leg injury. But Morgan, who entered averaging 22.5 minutes per night, was able to play 26 minutes, four more than his season average.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions can play all the defense they want but won’t get the results they want if they don’t shoot the ball better. Over their last four games in which they’re 1-3, they have made just 37 percent of their field goals.
Indiana hosts Louisville on Saturday.
Penn State hosts Colgate on Saturday.