How quickly things can change.
Just three days ago, Rutgers was handled by a poor Penn State team in a loss that had everyone smashing the panic button. On Sunday afternoon, the Scarlet Knights were able to get back on track with a 74-70 victory over Indiana at Assembly Hall — their first ever in that building. Rutgers has now defeated the Hoosiers four times in their last five meetings.
This win snapped a five-game losing streak for Rutgers. A shakeup to the starting lineup contributed to the team’s success.
Steve Pikiell made the decision prior to the game to start Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell. They were inserted in place of Jacob Young and Montez Mathis, who has has 66 straight starts. The cohesion and energy within the offense was visible from the opening minutes.
The Scarlet Knights finished with 15 assists in this one. Geo Baker led the way with 19 points on 7-15 from the floor with a team-high five assists. Ron Harper Jr. totaled 15 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
For the first time in nearly a month, Rutgers was the aggressor on both ends. This was especially true down low led by Myles Johnson. The Scarlet Knights finished with 32 rebounds and seven blocks. Johnson filled up the stat sheet with eight points on 4-4 shooting with eight rebounds, two on the offensive end, five blocks and three steals. Johnson corralled the most important rebounds of the game with an offensive board with 11 seconds left off a Harper Jr. miss.
The Scarlet Knights gained control early. They held the lead for most of the first half and took a 38-33 lead into halftime. The lead grew to 14 with 11:54 left to play but Indiana was able to make a run of their own. After a suspect technical foul called on Baker, Indiana gained a bit of momentum and was able to cut their deficit to just three. It did not get closer than that as Rutgers executed well down the stretch.
Rutgers shot well from the field knocking down eight three’s and finishing 51% from the field. They also had one of their best games from the free throw line going 12-17 for 71%. This will have to continue if the team wants to turn things around moving forward.
This win has Rutgers at 4-6 in Big Ten play over the first half of the schedule. There is still plenty of time for the Scarlet Knights to turn things around but it has to continue right away. Rutgers has 10 games left on their schedule with a matchup against Michigan State coming up next on Thursday at the RAC.
Rutgers should feel good after this victory but it is just a start. They will have to go on a run to get themselves comfortably back into the NCAA Tournament conversation.