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Nittany Lions Looking to Bounce Back Against Indiana

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Seeking its first Big Ten win, the Nittany Lion basketball team (9-7, 0-3) caps off a two-game home stretch against Indiana on Saturday (12 p.m. on BTN).

9595953.jpegPenn State led by five at halftime and by as much as eight in the second half against Minnesota on Wednesday night, but the Gophers closed the final 3:44 on a 13-6 run to edge the Lions by three (68-65).  The Minnesota game marked the second time in three conference games that the Nittany Lions had a second-half lead of more than five points.  Now, head coach Patrick Chambers is looking for his squad to close out games.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to learn how to finish games," Chambers said.  "It's in their hands now. They have to make the plays down the stretch.  They have to want to put themselves on the foul line, they have to shoot with confidence, they have to play good defense, get stops and get rebounds...We just need to do the little things and we did it for a good majority of the game. Then we have to finish it and we didn't finish it."

Penn State heads on the road for two games next week, beginning with a Tuesday trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan.

Take a look through some things to watch for in the Saturday matinee.

Winning Plays
The Nittany Lions practice end of game situations constantly at practice.  Coach Chambers has taken the team through just about every imaginable scenario to prepare the group for anything that might come up in a game.  Now, Chambers is challenging the team to execute in clutch moments of basketball games to make the "winning plays", as he calls them.  Defending and rebounding are the foundation of what the Nittany Lions want to do every time they step on the floor.  Penn State has been in a good position at halftime of all three Big Ten games.  The Lions led by seven at halftime against Michigan State, trailed by two at the break in Illinois and led by five after 20 minutes against Minnesota.  Now, the Lions are looking to take the next step.  Chambers said he wants to see the team play with more confidence and looser on the floor.

"Everyone's trying to make hero plays instead of habits, foundation, do what you're taught, do what we do in practice and, obviously, we didn't do that at the end and they did," said Chambers following the Minnesota game.

Frazier Steps Up
Senior point guard Tim Frazier played one of his best games this season against Minnesota.  The Houston native scored 20 points on just seven shot attempts (6-for-7).  He also tallied eight assists and pulled down five rebounds.  Frazier was active on the defensive end of the floor throughout his 39 minutes of action.  His outing on Wednesday snapped a cold-shooting spell to start Big Ten play, and Frazier's output is critical moving forward for the Nittany Lions.  When Frazier is at his best, the Nittany Lion offense moves with great flow.

Defense Key for Lions
For 37 minutes, Chambers was really pleased with the defensive effort the Nittany Lions put forth against Minnesota.  Penn State's rotations and perimeter defense were very good in the second half until the latter stages of the game.  Moving forward, the team knows that its ability to win basketball games in the Big Ten hinges on its defensive effort.  Penn State has a lot to build on following Wednesday's game.  The Lions limited Minnesota to 41 percent from the field and 25 percent from the arc.  Additionally, the Lions and Gophers were even on the glass.  Chambers started true freshman Geno Thorpe for the first time this season.  Thorpe brings a gritty toughness to the floor on the defensive end.  Thorpe scored eight points in a season-high 29 minutes of action against the Gophers.

Scouting Indiana
The Hoosiers enter the weekend 10-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten following a mid-week bye.  Indiana opened conference play with an 83-80 overtime setback at Illinois and a 73-56 loss to Michigan State at home.  Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell is Indiana's top scorer at 17.7 points per game.  Freshman forward Noah Vonleh is second on the team in scoring at 11.8 tallies per game.  Vonleh is also the Big Ten's leading rebounder at 9.5 per contest.  Senior Will Sheehey is the third Hoosier averaging double-figures at 10.9 points per game.

Indiana's starting lineup features two freshmen and two sophomores.  In total, IU has a combined 11 true freshmen and true sophomores on its roster this season.  The Hoosiers rank third in the Big Ten scoring at 80.3 points per game.  Tom Crean's squad is limiting its opponents to under 40 percent shooting for the season (39.0 percent).  The Hoosiers have been a superb rebounding team.  IU leads the Big Ten in rebounding margin at +12.8.  However, Indiana ranks last in the Big Ten in turnover margin (-3.0).  The Hoosiers average 16.3 turnovers per game.

The Nittany Lions and Hoosiers have split the last 12 meetings between, but Indiana has won the past five games.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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