STATE COLLEGE – Christian Watford scored 16 points, Jordan Hulls added 14 and No. 5 Indiana used a big first-half run to race past Penn State 74-51 Monday night.
The Hoosiers’ breakneck offense could rarely be stopped in the first half before the pace slowed down in a sloppy second half. But it barely mattered after Indiana (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) built a 19-point lead in the first half behind Watford’s inside-out game and Hulls’ quick-release jumpers.
No wonder Indiana had the top scoring offense in the nation (87.9 points) entering Monday night’s blowout.
Jermaine Marshall had 11 points for the Nittany Lions (8-6, 0-2), which had a five-game home winning streak snapped. Ross Travis added 14 points and five rebounds.
Penn State played with trademark hustle and found success attacking the lane, but just couldn’t keep up with the quicker, more talented Hoosiers.
Not many teams feature a 7-foot center who can run the floor as deftly as Cody Zeller, Indiana’s leading scorer (16.6 points). In a play that typified Penn State’s night, Zeller forced a midcourt steal on Penn State point guard D.J. Newbill before trotting to the basket for a dunk early in the game.
Zeller did land awkwardly after taking two disjointed steps, but he got up and looked fine running up the court.
As if any more proof was needed, Zeller finished another break with a dunk for a 39-21 lead with 4:34 left in the first half. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Otherwise Indiana rarely got tripped up in a road tuneup for a showdown with No. 8 Minnesota back in Bloomington on Saturday.
Penn State was at least able to keep up with Indiana on the glass, edging the Big Ten’s best team on the boards 35-33. Marshall had seven rebounds.
The Nittany Lions could have used a more traditional point guard to help withstand Indiana’s two-way onslaught, but star guard Tim Frazier could only watch from the bench in a crisp dark gray suit and walking boot on his left foot after suffering a season-ending injury in November.
So it’s Newbill, more of a combo guard, who must bear the brunt of the ball-handling responsibilities. He finished with eight points on 3-of-15 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists but committed five turnovers.
The slower pace in the second half played to Penn State’s favor after the teams combined for 15 turnovers over the first 9 minutes after halftime. Still, the Nittany Lions could never muster anything close to a consistent run, even before an energetic crowd with a healthy sprinkling of fans wearing Indiana red.
The Hoosiers’ lead didn’t dip below double digits in the second half. Indiana shot 52 percent for the game to 31 percent for Penn State.