A difficult week for Rutgers basketball didn’t get any easier on Sunday, as they walked into the buzzsaw that was Assembly Hall on senior day, as Indiana was fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Hoosiers took control from the outset behind the play of senior Juwan Morgan and the Scarlet Knights took too long to respond. The defense simply wasn’t close to good enough. Rutgers never stopped fighting, but it was clear Indiana had too much in the tank to falter, winning easily 89-73.
First Half Summary
It was a brutal start on the road for Rutgers and exactly what they needed to avoid. Senior Juwan Morgan came out on a mission in last home game and led Indiana on a 14-2 run early to build a commanding 27-11 lead midway through the first half. The Hoosiers were getting easy baskets and the Rutgers offense was stagnant. Indiana was dominating the boards and shooting 67% from the floor. It seemed liked the Scarlet Knights were going to be run off the court at this point in the game.
Trailing 34-19, Rutgers rattled off a 7-0 run thanks to a Caleb McConnell three point play the hard way, , but soon after a foul was called on Ron Harper Jr. as Romeo Langford was taking a three-pointer. He made two of three and the lead hovered around 10 most of the rest of the first half. Indiana led 46-36 at halftime after shooting 54% from the field and 15 of 18 from the foul line. Juwan Morgan led the way with 12 points on 6 of 6 shooting and 6 rebounds.
Rutgers recovered from the slow start to shoot 45% in the first half, including 3 of 8 from three-point range and 7 of 10 from the foul line. However, they were -3 on turnovers and rebounds, while the Hoosiers held a 10-0 edge in fast break points. McConnell was the best player in scarlet in the opening frame, scoring 10 points on 3 of 4 from the field.
Second Half Summary
Out of the break, Langford drew a foul on Omoruyi on the first possession, which was his third of the game. Head coach Steve Pikiell kept him in, showing how important this game was. With Rutgers trailing 50-36 and in trouble, Ron Harper Jr. made a basket, drew the third foul on Morgan, but he missed the free throw. Soon after Shaq Doorson picked up his third foul as well. As you can tell, the zebras were busy on Sunday.
After a Myles Johnson follow on a miss and a dunk to cut the lead to 9 points, he was called for his third foul on the other end as Aljami Durham converted the three-point play to put Indiana up 54-42. Every time up to this point when Rutgers cut the lead to single digits, the Hoosiers responded on the next possession. Soon after leading by 10, Rob Phinisee hit a three and Morgan drew the fourth foul on Johnson and converted a three-point play. Indiana led 60-44 in flash with over 14 minutes to play. Soon after Morgan scored another three-point play the hard way, followed by him draining a shot from behind the arc. The senior had 23 points on 10 of 10 shooting and Rutgers trailed 66-46 with 12:28 left in the game. The Scarlet Knights fell into a six plus minute stretch without a field goal and hope was lost on this day.
Rutgers never quit, but the lead grew as large as 23 points, with Indiana winning 89-73.
The Game Changed When
With Rutgers trailing 27-11, it looked like they would get run out of the building in the first half. However, this team showed some fight and put together a 15-7 run to cut the lead to 8. They were able to hang around the 10 point mark for an extended portion before the wheels came off midway through the second half.
It Was Over When
With Rutgers continuing to battle and trailing 54-44, Indiana put together a game ending 12-2 run behind senior Juwan Morgan to lead by 20 points. Even with over 12 minutes left in the game, it was clear Rutgers wasn’t coming back from that large a deficit on the road.
For Indiana, Juwan Morgan set the tone early and dominated the game behind 25 points on 11 of 13 shooting. He added 7 rebounds. Romeo Langford scored 18 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Devonte Green was outstanding off the bench, scoring 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting.
For Rutgers, Caleb McConnell was the best player on the court on Sunday. He played with energy and smarts, finishing with 17 points on 5 of 8 shooting and 6 of 7 from the foul line. He added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and 0 turnovers.
Indiana shot 53% from the floor and 79% from the foul line on 29 attempts. Rutgers shot just 43% from the floor, but made 77% from the foul line on 30 attempts.
Rutgers was better on the glass in the second half and was +4 for the game, but lost points in the paint 48-38.
Indiana had a + 6 turnover margin and 14-7 edge in points off of them.
Other Rutgers Contributors
Eugene Omoruyi led Rutgers with 18 points on 5 of 10 shooting and 8 of 11 from the foul line. He added 6 rebounds.
Ron Harper Jr. had 8 points on 4 of 10 shooting and 7 rebounds.
Myles Johnson had just 4 points, but grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.
Geo Baker and Montez Mathis struggled once again. Baker finished with 5 points on 1 of 4 shooting and had just 1 assist with 3 turnovers. Mathis had 7 points on just 3 of 11 shooting and added 4 rebounds.
What We Learned
After coming into this week off of back to back wins, there was hope Rutgers would end the regular season on a high note. Unfortunately, the final week of the regular season turned into a nightmare. A one-point loss to Penn State, the suspension of Issa Thiam, and today’s blowout loss at Indiana was a disappointing way to end what has been a season headlined by progress overall. The positive is that even in a bad loss, the young players like Ron Harper Jr., Caleb McConnell, and Myles Johnson played well. The future is bright and even on bad days like today, the experience this young core is acquiring is invaluable for the future. Finishing in 12th place with a 7-13 record in Big Ten play is still notable progress in year three under Steve Pikiell.
Rutgers (14-16; 7-13) will play Nebraska (15-15; 5-12) on Wednesday night at 6:30 ET on BTN in the 12/13 game. I’ll have a full preview on Tuesday. The Scarlet Knights beat the Cornhuskers 76-69 on January 21st back when NU had serious NCAA hopes. After losing Isaac Copeland for the season soon after, they’ve lost 11 of its last 13 game, before beating Iowa in overtime on Sunday. The winner of Wednesday’s game will play the second contest on Thursday (approximately at 3 p.m. ET) against the five seed, which will be Maryland. The most important thing for Rutgers is to regroup and win Wednesday.