Thirty minutes before Indiana’s Big Ten home opener against No. 22 Ohio State, Indiana coach Tom Crean said he made a change in his starting lineup. The Hoosiers’ usual starting five trotted out on the court for the 11th game in a row, but one starter, likely junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, had nearly lost his grasp on his spot in the starting lineup.
“The starting lineup is always subject to change,” Crean said at his press conference on Monday. “It’s not a given on any given night.”
Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, those words ring louder and truer than ever just one day later. Multiple reports surfaced Tuesday morning that junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea suffered a knee injury on Monday that will sideline him for two to four weeks. The program has not confirmed the injury.
The Hoosiers (12-4, 2-1) will get their first taste of life without Mosquera-Perea Tuesday night against Penn State (12-4, 0-3).
Without Mosquera-Perea, Indiana’s undersized roster just got smaller, leaving 6-foot-7 forwards Troy Williams, Emmitt Holt and Collin Hartman to man the team’s frontcourt. Freshmen Max Hoetzel, Tim Priller and Jeremiah April, who are 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-11, respectively, could provide Crean with bigger options off the bench but all three have played limited minutes this season.
Holt or Hartman will fill Mosquera-Perea’s void in the starting lineup and Indiana will play an entirely new brand of small ball.
The junior’s injury was out of Indiana’s control, but the Hoosiers can control how they respond to his temporary loss. Crean said Monday that playing with a mindset based on hustle, defense, rebounding and making the next pass is something that his players can control.
Luckily for Indiana, the Hoosiers won’t have to face an elite big man in their first game without Mosquera-Perea. Donovan Jack and Jordan Dickerson are the Nittany Lions’ only rotation players taller than 6-foot-7 and both play roughly 15 minutes per game.
What Indiana will have to face, though, is the Big Ten’s leading scorer, senior D.J. Newbill.
“You have to be aware of where he’s at, at all times,” Crean said.
Newbill scores his conference-best 21.3 points per game in a variety of ways. He frequents the free throw line thanks to the 6.1 fouls he draws per 40 minutes and he shoots 37.7 percent from behind the arc. While the senior guard is Penn State’s best player, the Nittany Lions are more than a one-trick pony. Brandon Taylor, Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe average at least eight points per game and provide Pat Chambers’ team with secondary scoring options.
“There’s a lot of guys on that court that can really, really score, not just Newbill,” Crean said. “They can score, whether they can shoot, whether they can drive it, whether they can post it, they can score.”
Penn State will be missing its fifth-leading scorer, senior John Johnson, who was suspended on Monday from all team activities. When Crean was asked if he had a reaction to Penn State losing Johnson, he said he didn’t really have one.
“They’re a really good team with or without him in my mind,” Crean said. “He can certainly score the ball but they’ve got other guys that can score.”
In fact, Crean said there’s a chance the suspension could help the Nittany Lions.
“I think my first reaction would be that those have a tendency to really rally teams,” he said. “Those have a real ability to get in an even tighter circle.”
Now the question is whether Indiana, without Mosquera-Perea, can do the same.