STATE COLLEGE - The scoreboard may have been guilty of wishful thinking.
Talor Battle's layup with 14 minutes to play didn't give Penn State a 41-40 lead as the scoreboard indicated, it only cut the deficit vs. Indiana to one point.
The way the Nittany Lions' Big Ten season is unfolding, there may not be many more chances to show a lead, not after a 67-61 defeat to the Hoosiers Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. The loss left Penn State (8-10, 0-6 Big Ten) owners of one of the worst conference starts in the nation this season. Rutgers is the only other 0-6 team in a BCS conference. Mid-majors Wagner and Boise State, are off to 0-7 starts, while Tennessee-Martin is 0-8.
"We've got to get over the hump and see how it feels," said Battle, who scored 22 points despite missing two days of practice with a turned ankle. "Until we make a play, we'll continue to have sad faces."
Penn State actually tied the game one possession after the scoreboard mistake on a Chris Babb free throw to cap a 12-3 run to start the second half. But Babb, nursing a broken right ring finger, missed a 3-pointer on the next possession that clanked over the top of the backboard and shot clock.
"The finger's fine. You can't keep worrying about the finger," said Penn State coach Ed DeChellis. "You've got to make shots."
Verdell Jones III gave the Hoosiers (9-9, 3-3) the lead for good again at 42-40 with a layup on the next possession.
The Nittany Lions kept the game close, but never led at any point and tied it just three times. Indiana increased its lead to 63-57 with 2:58 to go when Jones hit a 3-pointer from Christian Watford on an expiring shot clock at the end of a possession extended by a Watford offensive rebound after another missed three at the end of the shot clock.
It was the kind of clutch hustle play second-year coach Tom Crean is getting that DeChellis is not. Crean, cleaning up the mess from the Kelvin Sampson era, may have already surpassed DeChellis, still trying for his first NCAA trip in seven years at Penn State. But Crean was quick to start his postgame press conference with unsolicited praise of DeChellis' work, which included a 2009 NIT title.
"That team lost serious pieces, and look at how other people have dealt with their losses," said Crean. "North Carolina and Roy Williams, this team has the same thing."
One bright spot for Penn State besides Battle center Andrew Ott scored a career-high 13 points with a career-high 7 rebounds in his third straight start over Andrew Jones. It was a welcome contribution for the Nittany Lions, believed to be the only BCS conference school with just one player (Battle) averaging double-digit scoring. Freshman guard Bill Edwards, given a start by DeChellis after good practices, did not score and caused three turnovers in the game's first five minutes.
Devan Dumes led Indiana with 15 points off the bench. Jones scored 14 and Watford, the league's top freshman scorer, had 11.
The Hoosiers sank 9 of 20 3-pointers, while Penn State was 4-for-22.
The Nittany Lions had some high hopes for Thursday, as they'd beaten the Hoosiers five straight times. They had also lost their last two games, both on the road, by a combined four points. In fact, their Big Ten home opener, a 17-point defeat to Wisconsin, was the only league game where they never contended. They have also outrebounded the opposition in every Big Ten game.
Now, Penn State faces three of its next four on the road, starting with a trip Sunday to Wisconsin.
"Everyone's trying to do something, and sometimes it's not a smart decision," said DeChellis. "It's been a point of contention, that we don't make the right decision at the right time. It's a confidence thing."
Watford 5-9 0-0 11, Pritchard 0-1 0-0 0, Hulls 3-7 0-1 9, Rivers 3-7 0-0 6, Jones III 5-12 3-5 14, Moore 0-0 2-2 2, Muniru 0-0 0-0 0, Capobianco 1-3 0-0 2, Elston 2-3 3-4 8, Dumes 5-12 2-2 15. Totals 24-54 10-14 67.
PENN ST. (8-10)
Jackson 3-8 3-4 9, Ott 6-9 1-2 13, Babb 1-8 1-2 4, Edwards 0-3 0-0 0, Battle 7-18 6-8 22, Jones 2-4 0-1 4, Frazier 2-4 0-0 5, Woodyard 0-4 0-0 0, Brooks 2-4 0-1 4. Totals 23-62 11-18 61.
Halftime-Indiana 35-28. 3-Point Goals-Indiana 9-20 (Hulls 3-6, Dumes 3-7, Watford 1-1, Elston 1-1, Jones III 1-3, Rivers 0-1, Capobianco 0-1), Penn St. 4-22 (Battle 2-7, Frazier 1-1, Babb 1-7, Jackson 0-2, Brooks 0-2, Woodyard 0-3). Fouled Out-Rivers. Rebounds-Indiana 35 (Watford 9), Penn St. 41 (Brooks 8). Assists-Indiana 15 (Jones III 4), Penn St. 12 (Battle 4). Total Fouls-Indiana 21, Penn St. 13. A-8,251.