Rutgers (7-6; 3-6) at Indiana (9-6; 4-4)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana
Tip-off: Sunday, January 24 at 12:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin and Stephen Bardo
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers is 46, which is 7 spots worse since the 8 point loss at Penn State on Thursday; Indiana is 23, which is 10 spots worse better since a 12 point win at Iowa on Thursday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 109.2 (59th) Defense 93.2 (37th); Indiana - Offense 110.9 (43rd) Defense 91.2 (15th)
KenPom Prediction: Indiana 70 Rutgers 65; Rutgers is given a 33% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Indiana -4.5
Series History: Indiana leads the all-time series 7-3, but Rutgers won the lone meeting last season 59-50 at the RAC on January 15, 2020.
Indiana SB Nation Site: The Crimson Quarry
Indiana - 6’9” sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis (20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.5 assists, 54.2% FG); 6’4” sophomore Armaan Franklin (12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 43.1% 3-pt FG); 6’4” senior Aljami Durham (10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists); 6’8” redshirt junior Race Thompson (9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, 54.5% FG); 6’1” junior Rob Phinisee (8.4 points, 3.1 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 34.6% 3-pt FG); 6’7” redshirt sophomore Jerome Hunter (5.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 35.9% 3-pt FG); 6’4” freshman Trey Galloway (4.9 points, 2.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds); 6’5” freshman Anthony Leal (2.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists)
Rutgers - 6’6” junior Ron Harper Jr. (18.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 41.6% 3-pt FG); 6’2” senior Jacob Young (15.2 points, 4.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 2.2 rebounds, 37.5% 3-pt FG); 6’4” junior Montez Mathis (12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 37.8 % 3-pt FG); 6’4” Geo Baker (8.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steal); 6’10” redshirt junior Myles Johnson (8.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals, 1.1 assists, 61.3% FG); 6’6” sophomore Paul Mulcahy (6.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 38.1% 3-pt FG); 6’7” junior Caleb McConnell (4.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steal) 6’11” Cliff Omoruyi (4.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 62.5% FG)
Indiana’s Trey Galloway missed the last game due to back soreness. Freshman Jordan Geronimo played in his absence, scoring 7 points on 3 of 3 shooting in 10 minutes of action. No word on Galloway’s status for Sunday’s game against Rutgers.
Rutgers has no significant injury issues.
The Hoosiers are coming off its biggest win of the season and perhaps most impressive upset in Big Ten play this season. Trailing no. 4 Iowa by 9 points midway through the second half, Indiana clamped down defensively en route to a stunning 81-69 victory. They had a week off since their previous game, a home loss to rival Purdue by the same score.
IU is averaging 73.1 points per game and is shooting 46.1% from the floor, 33.3% from three-point range and 65.9% from the foul line this season. They are 5th in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play and 9th in defensive efficiency (Rutgers is 8th in offensive efficiency and 10th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play).
Offensively in conference action, Indiana is 3rd in two-point field goal percentage and 4th in free throw rate (getting to the line). However, they are just 11th in offensive rebounding rate and free throw shooting percentage, as well as 12th in three-point shooting.
Defensively, IU is 3rd in block rate and 4th in turnover rate. Conversely, they are just 11th in free throw rate and 13th in three-point shooting percentage defense.
Trayce-Jackson-Davis is one of the best players in the Big Ten and is a force in the paint on both ends of the floor. Indiana isn’t a prolific three-point shooting team and will look to attack the rim, albeit at a slow pace, as they play at the 12th slowest tempo in Big Ten play and 286th nationally.
Keys To Victory
Indiana held Iowa without a field goal for 11 minutes in the second half on Thursday. The Hoosier have defended the rim well all season and were exceptional against the most efficient offense in college basketball. They want to muck it up in the paint and slow the game down. They were able to do that against the Hawkeyes and will have plenty of confidence they can do the same on Sunday against Rutgers.
This is concerning for RU, as they have struggled finishing near the rim all season. However, they need to attack in this game and not settle for contested jumpers. Take threes when they come within the flow of the offense, not forcing them as a first option.
The Scarlet Knights looked the best they have offensively in quite awhile down the stretch against Penn State. Although the comeback fell short, the clear takeaway was that they got much better looks due to better ball movement. Geo Baker and Paul Mulcahy need to be assertive running the offense on Sunday, as they facilitated the improved play. They need to minimize turnovers against a IU team that is proficient in forcing them, while also moving the basketball more through passing instead of off the bounce. Jacob Young is the best penetrator on the team, but he needs stay under control on drives and look to find open teammates more so in this game.
This contest features the two worst free throw shooting teams in the Big Ten. It won’t matter though if Rutgers can’t improve in getting to the line. The four best ball handlers on the team happen to be the four best free throw shooters as well, but are not doing a good job of drawing contact on drives. Baker, Mulcahy, Jacob Young, and Caleb McConnell need to attack off of ball reversals to get to the line. While getting Ron Harper Jr. going is a must, posting him up, which he did well at times against PSU, will help him get better looks and draw contact as well.
Myles Johnson and Cliff Omoruyi need to be active inside on the glass and in defending Jackson-Davis. Staying out of foul trouble is key and this could be a game that head coach Steve Pikiell plays them both together to create matchup problems for the Hoosiers.
The bottom line is that if Rutgers doesn’t defend and rebound at a high level, the odds of winning this game is zero. Indiana is not a strong offensive rebounding team, so Rutgers needs to control the glass and limit second chance scoring opportunities. It’s likely they’ll miss shots near the rim against Indiana’s interior defense, so grabbing offensive boards and converting will be hugely important. Defensive pressure is also important, especially on the guards, and Rutgers has been successful at times with fullcourt pressure. However, they can’t allow for breakdowns that lead to easy baskets for Indiana. Discipline and focus must be better in this game.
This is a gut check of gut check games for Rutgers. They are mired in a five game losing streak and a loss on Sunday would bury them in a 3-7 hole in Big Ten play. It’s fair to think they will be unable to recover from that standing. At the end of the day, Rutgers needs to show urgency, intensity and simply want it more than Indiana. The Hoosiers are riding high and are ripe for a letdown after the biggest win of their season. Their next game is against first place Michigan, so on short rest this could be one they are looking past. Regardless, the key to this game is how much desire Rutgers plays with. They need to play with desperation, because the situation calls for it.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the fourteenth game of the season, I chose “Back Against The Wall” by Cage The Elephant. The lyrics are pretty straight forward when applied to the current state of Rutgers basketball.
“I’m hanging by a thread and I’m feeling like I’ll fall. I’m stuck here in between these shadows of my yesterday. I want to get away, I need to get away.”
“You’ve got my back against the wall. Oh God, I ain’t got no other place to hide.”
Rutgers is coming off its worst loss of the season against Penn State with another disappointing effort on Thursday. This team plays stretches of very good basketball, but they are surrounded by too many stretches of uninspired, lackluster ones. It’s inexcusable and makes this losing streak all the more frustrating because this is a veteran, talented team.
The leadership must stand tall and make sure this team plays with energy and urgency in this game. Another loss and Rutgers will be in a potentially unrecoverable spot. The good news is that this group seems to play its best previously with its back against the wall and people doubting them. They’ve brought that on themselves this time though. They are the only one’s who can get them out of the mess they created and it needs to start in this game. There is no place to hide and hopefully the short turnaround time leads to them playing with an edge that leads to a much needed victory.