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Indiana Stifles Rutgers In 65-43 Defeat

It was a miserable offensive night for the Scarlet Knights

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling contest against Big Ten leader Purdue just a little more than 48 hours ago at the RAC, the air was let out of that same building early on in this game, as Rutgers sputtered offensively the entire night. Indiana was in control for all of this contest and behind an uncharacteristic strong shooting night from behind the arc, stymied Rutgers 65-43.

Indiana opened up red hot from behind the arc, as they made four of their five attempts from three-point range. They entered tonight’s game shooting just 30.2% from three in Big Ten play, which is 13th in the conference. On the flip side, Rutgers opened 1 of 10 from the field and found themselves in a big early hole, trailing the Hoosiers 16-3 just six minutes into the game.

After another minute went by without any change after Steve Pikiell had called a timeout, he then changed course by sending his starting lineup of Corey Sanders, Geo Baker, Issa Thiam, Deshawn Freeman, and Mamadou Doucoure to the bench and subbing in a lineup of Jake Dadika, Matt Bullock, Souf Mensah, Candido Sa, and Shaq Doorson. Finally, Rutgers ended a 12-0 run from Indiana, as Dadika made his first three-pointer of the season as the shot clock was expiring and a defender in his face. Still, the Scarlet Knights trailed 17-6 with 11:21 remaining in the opening frame.

After the TV timeout, Baker and Freeman re-entered the game, with Dadika, Bullock, and Sa. Indiana fell into a three minute scoring drought and Sa drew a charge. However, the Hoosiers regained their composure and as Rutgers was 2 of 16 from the floor to start the game, the visitors hit another three and led 22-6 with 8 minutes left in the first half. The pack line defense of Indiana was causing fits for the Rutgers offense.

Finally, a positive development occurred, as promising freshman guard Geo Baker started to get going, first with a step back elbow jumper, followed soon after with a three-pointer, cutting the score to 24-11 around the six minute mark of the first half. Indiana fell into a six-plus minute drought and Rutgers was able to generate points through their defense, using an 8-0 run to get back into the game. Corey Sanders found Deshawn Freeman in transition cutting the lead to 10. On the next trip down the floor, Freeman finished with a putback on an offensive rebound. Archie Miller called a timeout for Indiana and all of a sudden the score was 24-16 with 2:49 remaining in the opening frame.

Robert Johnson continued his strong first half and ended the scoring drought for Indiana with a jumper. He led the Hoosiers with 11 first half points. Rutgers failed to score in the final 2:50 of the half and went into the locker room trailing 26-16 after making just 6 of 28 shots (21%). They did well on the glass, grabbing 21 first half rebounds and held a +4 margin on the boards. However, they committed 8 turnovers, as Indiana held a 9-0 edge in points off of turnovers. It was an ugly half, to say the least.

The second half started with Freeman finding Issa Thiam for a rare post up in the paint and he converted after a shot fake in traffic. However, the creativity on offense was short lived. The pack line defense of Indiana continued to take away driving lanes, fought off screens and Rutgers forced contested jumpers. Fortunately, their defense forced the Hoosiers into another scoreless stretch, this time three-plus minutes after a quick Juwan Morgan basket to start the second half. However, Morgan hit a three-pointer with 16:15 remaining in the game and Rutgers trailed 31-18, as they were mired in their own three-plus minute drought without scoring.

Out of the under-16 timeout, just the fourth Indiana player produced points in the game, as Aljami Durham hit the 7th three-pointer for the Hoosiers. The score was 34-18 with 15 minutes to play, as Rutgers displayed little life in them on the court. A couple of minutes later, Collin Hartman made Indiana’s 8th shot from the behind the arc in the game. Rutgers hadn’t made a field goal in seven minutes and Steve Pikiell called a timeout with his team trailing 42-22. After scoring 49 points in the second half against Purdue on Saturday, the Scarlet Knights shooting was colder than Lambeau Field in December, as they were a putrid 7 of 37 from the floor at this point.

Corey Sanders finally ended his own drought, making a three-pointer on his first field goal of the night on his eighth attempt. As Indiana struggled again during a 1 of 7 shooting stretch, Geo Baker made his second shot of the game from behind the arc and Rutgers cut the lead to 43-30 at the midway point of the second half. Hope was short lived, as Juwan Morgan continued to dominate and completed a three-point play the hard way, giving him 20 points in the contest. That started a 9-0 run that put the game officially out of reach. The final score was 64-43.

Indiana was led by Juwan Morgan, who had a game high 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting, as well as 8 rebounds. Robert Johnson finished with 19 points on 7 of 13 from the field. The two combined for just four less points than the entire Rutgers team in this game.

The lack of shooters and bench scoring has really caught up with Rutgers, who looked beat up and failed to have a second gear after playing an almost perfect second half against #3 Purdue on Saturday night. A short bench led to a dead tired team tonight, unable to rekindle their performance from the weekend against a better team than they faced tonight. Consistency is severely lacking, as is the production that’s missing from Mike Williams and Eugene Omoruyi, both still out indefinitely with leg injuries. The offense lacked ball movement and there was too much dribbling, one on one action. Despite it all, the most telling statistic of the game was Indiana holding a 17-2 edge in points off of turnovers. Their ability to turn the mistakes of Rutgers into points was the biggest difference in the game, despite the awful shooting night by the host team.

Overall, Rutgers shot 24% from the floor, while Indiana finished 44% shooting, including 8 of 18 from three-point range. The Hoosiers outworked the Scarlet Knights on the boards in the second half and held a +3 edge in the game. Rutgers did actually hold a +1 turnover margin, but had just 5 assists in the game, compared to 15 for Indiana.

Deshawn Freeman led Rutgers with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. He did commit 3 turnovers and struggled on 3 of 11 shooting from the floor, but was a solid 7 of 9 from the free throw line. Geo Baker was the only other player in double figures, finishing with 10 points on 4 of 11 shooting. Corey Sanders was just 1 of 11 from the field and finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists with just 1 turnover. He was unable to ever get going, which doomed Rutgers. The only other player with multiple baskets aside from Freeman and Baker was Mamadou Doucoure, who finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds.

After playing the state of Indiana twice in three nights, Rutgers will have time to regroup before taking on Nebraska (17-8; 8-4) on the road on Saturday at 4 p.m. The first meeting between the two teams was a close contest, as the Scarlet Knights fell 60-54 in a game they let slip away down the stretch. They’ll face a tall task at Nebraska, as the Huskers are 5-0 at home in Big Ten play this season. As the final stretch of the regular season is in full swing, Rutgers (12-14; 2-11) is struggling to stay afloat.