Indiana Holds Off Penn State, 79-76
University Park, Pa. (AP) - Redshirt sophomore Austin Etherington drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:22, giving the Hoosiers the lead for good and IU made six free throws in the final minute and a defensive stop at the end in a 79-76 comeback victory at Penn State on Saturday.
"Austin prepared all week that way," IU Coach Crean said. "I felt he would even before the week even started. I felt it was time for him to really bring this consistent practice to the game and he did."
Etherington, averaging just 1.6 points per game coming in, missed a layup in his only other shot during the game but did not hesitate after getting one Penn State defender out of the way with a well-executed fake, then pulling up as another Nittany Lion ran at him with arms outstretched.
"I felt good," Etherington said, "and I felt it was the right shot."
One that propelled Indiana (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) to the biggest rally of Crean's six-year tenure. The Hoosiers trailed by 15 points in the first half but avoided the program's first 0-3 start in the Big Ten in three years behind Etherington's gutsy shot and six free throws over the final 50 seconds.
"He's a battler, Crean said of Etherington. "He's scrappy. Really, because he hasn't played a lot, the confidence is going to go one way or another in a game. It's either really going to grow or it's going to drop because he's not starting with a huge level of it when he walks in because he doesn't have all the experience of it. The fact that he went in and his confidence threw to the point he could knock down that shot in the corner is huge. "He grew up a lot today."
Despite trailing by 15 in the first 11 minutes of the game, IU was able to find its resolve.
"I'm proud of the way we responded to the adversity of the game," Crean said. "We grew up. We played with real confidence. We're going to build on it."
Freshman Noah Vonleh scored a career-high 19 points for Indiana, including 12 straight to start the game and despite the deficit IU only trailed 41-37 at halftime.
The Hoosiers didn't earn their first lead until 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.
Rather than fold, however, Penn State surged.
D.J. 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.
"We never wanted to give up," sophomore Kevin Yogi Ferrell said. "I know we were down 15 a couple times but we never let up."
the Lions went on a 6-0 run to tie it 6:26 left, and it was never more than a one-possession game the rest of the way.
A free throw by senior walk-on Jeff Howard, who came in and gave the Hoosiers valuable minutes inside, and two free throws by senior Evan Gordon tied the game at 68-68. A dunk by Vonleh off a pick-and-roll with Ferrell made it 70-70, but Penn State's D.J. Newbill, who led all scorers with 24 points, hit two free throws to make it 72-70.
That set up Etherington's heroics and after Ferrell hit two more free throws to make it 79-76 with 8.0 seconds left, the Hoosiers escaped after Newbill missed a three-pointer in the closing seconds and Ferrell grabbed the board.
Ferrell would finish with 15 points, but had his best game as a floor general this season with seven assists and just one turnover.
Howard was the X-factor down the stretch contributing four points and three offensive rebounds that PSU Coach Patrick Chambers thought turned the game in the Hoosiers favor.
"I felt like that was the game right there," Chambers said. "That was it. They missed a layup, we have our hands on it. They get it back, they miss a layup, we have our hands on it again. They get it back, we foul. If you get a stop right there, bang, game over. Now, they gotta foul us. Now we're shooting free throws and not the other way around."
For Crean he was not surprised of the impact that Howard had on the game.
"Jeff Howard is always ready," noted Crean. "Jeff Howard doesn't know when he's going in. And when Jeff Howard went in there, Jeff Howard was ready to go. There wasn't any, 'Well, I gotta work my way in, I gotta make my presence felt. No, he just played. And I think he kept us moving in a direction with getting to the foul line and with being active and being where he needed to be and doing the things he needed to do defensively. It was fantastic, and we can build on that."
"A win like this today is big for many reasons," said Crean. "We grew up a lot today as a team. We needed to and we did. We played with tremendous togetherness, we never got down and came through some monstrous deficits for us, things that we've not been through and responded to."
The Hoosiers return to action Tuesday night to take on undefeated Wisconsin in Assembly Hall.
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