Rutgers (16-12; 10-8) v. Indiana (18-10; 9-9)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana (capacity 17,222)
Tip-off: Wednesday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin and Robbie Hummel
Stream: FOX Sports Live
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 83; Indiana No. 44 (Quad 1 opponent)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 74, which is two spots worse following a 66-61 loss to No. 24 Wisconsin on Saturday. Indiana - No. 44, which is two spots worse following a 84-79 win at No. 105 Minnesota on Sunday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 106.6 (123rd) Defense 95.9 (41st); Indiana - Offense 107.4 (104th) Defense 93.2 (19th)
KenPom Prediction: Indiana 67 Rutgers 62; Rutgers is given a 31% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Indiana -5
Series History: Indiana leads the all-time series 7-6, although Rutgers has won six of the last seven meetings. This includes three wins last season, one of which was at Assembly Hall although there were no fans present.
Indiana: 6’9” junior Trayce Jackson-Davis - 17.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.0 assists, 57.5% FG; 6’8” redshirt senior Race Thompson - 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 55.7% FG; 6’3” senior Xavier Johnson - 11.5 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 38.4% 3-pt FG; 6’5” redshirt senior Parker Stewart - 6.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 42.6% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Miller Kopp - 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 35.8% 3-pt FG; 6’5” sophomore Trey Galloway - 6.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 6’1” senior Rob Phinisee - 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 31.0% 3-pt FG; 6’5” freshman Tamar Bates - 4.3 points, 1.4 rebounds, 28.6% 3-pt FG; 6’6” sophomore Jordan Geronimo - 4.0 points, 3.6 rebounds; 6’2” sophomore Khristian Lander - 3.0 points, 1.0 assist
Rutgers: 6’6” senior Ron Harper Jr. - 15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 38.8% 3-pt FG; 6’4” redshirt senior Geo Baker - 12.2 points, 3.9 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 31.3% 3-pt FG; 6’11” sophomore Cliff Omoruyi - 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 61.1% FG; 6’6” junior Paul Mulcahy - 9.1 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 35.4% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Caleb McConnell - 6.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 2.3 assists, 27.7% 3-pt FG; 6’6” sophomore Aundre Hyatt - 4.5 points, 2.9 rebounds; 6’8” Jaden Jones - 3.6 points, 1.2 rebounds; 6’7” sophomore Mawot Mag - 3.2 points, 2.0 rebounds; 6’10 sophomore Dean Reiber - 3.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, 53.6% FG; 6’8” senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee - 2.1 points, 1.1 rebounds; 6’8” sophomore Oskar Palmquist - 1.5 points, 5-11 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Jalen Miller - 0.8 points
The Hoosiers have won two in a row against Maryland and Minnesota after suffering a five game losing streak. They are 3-7 against KenPom Top 50 teams and 7-10 against KenPom Top 100 teams. They are averaging 71.9 points per game and are allowing opponents to score 65.3 points per contest.
Indiana is shooting 51.6% from two-point range (105th), 34.2% from three-point range (141st) and 68.5% from the foul line (280th). Their turnover rate is 17.9% (129th) and have an offensive rebounding rate of 27.2% (210th).
Defensively, the Hoosiers have been elite statistically this season, although have not been as effective in the last five of the last seven games. Overall, they are holding opponent to just 43.5% shooting from two-point range (9th) and 31.5 from three-point range (69th). They have the 11th best block rate nationally at 14.8% and are holding opponents to only an 24.4% offensive rebounding rate (47th). Their biggest weakness is not forcing takeaways with opponents having a 17.6 turnover rate (225th).
In Big Ten play, Indiana is 11th in offensive efficiency and 1st in defensive efficiency. Offensively, they are third with a 32.5% free throw rate and 5th with a 15.4% turnover rate. They are 13th with a 48.3% effective field goal percentage, 32.6% three-point shooting percentage and 68.9% free throw shooting percentage. Defensively, IU is first with a 13.7% block rate, second with opponents having a 47.9% effective field goal percentage, third in holding foes to 46.9% shooting from two-point range, fourth in a 17.3% defensive turnover rate and fifth in holding opponents to 25.4% offensive rebounding rate and a 32.9% three-point shooting percentage.
Trayce Jackson-Davis is an elite rim defender but despite leading Indiana in scoring, Xavier Johnson has boosted the team in scoring 24 points in both the last two games which resulted in victories. He also dished out 14 assists to just 4 turnovers in those wins. Reserve guard Rob Phinisee just returned after a month long absence due to injury and gives the Hoosiers good depth in the backcourt. Five different player connected from behind the arc in their last game against Minnesota. They almost blew a 27 point lead but held on for a road win.
Indiana is 6-3 at home in Big Ten play.
For the season, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 68.1 points per game and allowing 65.5 points per contest.....RU is shooting only 49.1% from two-point range (205th), 33.3% from three-point range (190th) and 71.0% from the foul line (199th)......They are ranked 25th nationally in assist rate at 59.3%, 40th in two-point defense in holding opponents to 46.2% shooting, 54th in defensive block rate at 11.8% and 62nd in defensive steal rate at 11.0% .......Rutgers is 9th in offensive efficiency and 4th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play so far this season......RU is 4th from three-point range at 36.4% shooting, 5th in free throw shooting at 74.0% and 6th in effective field goal percentage at 50.7% and offensive rebounding rate at 28.8% in league play........They are in the top five in five defensive categories in Big Ten play including 1st in steal rate (10.7%), 3rd in turnover rate (17.8%), 4th in block rate (12.1%) and free throw rate (26.5%) while 5th in two-point defense (48.6%).....Rutgers is 7-5 against KenPom Top 50 teams and 9-8 against KenPom Top 100 teams.
Stat To Know
In Big Ten play this season, Rutgers is 8-0 when holding opponents to 65 or less points. Conversely, Indiana is 0-6 when scoring 65 or less points in league action.
Keys To Victory
This matchup will have major implications for both sides as the winner will be in better position to make the NCAA Tournament than the loser. Rutgers is also one game ahead of Indiana in the league standings so where these teams ultimately finish and are seeded for the Big Ten Tournament could come down to tonight as well.
Assembly Hall will be a great college basketball environment tonight and it is senior night for the Hoosiers. They do have six seniors but all of them are eligible to return next season. The only two being honored are are third leading scorer Race Thompson and their top three-point shooter, Parker Stewart. Even so, expect Indiana to get an emotional lift early on. That makes it even more important that Rutgers get off to a solid start in this game by bringing defensive intensity and limiting turnovers in the opening stretch of the game. This group knows how to handle senior nights on the road, beating Iowa, Purdue and Minnesota in each of the last three seasons.
Rutgers has matched up very well against Indiana in recent years and dominated the Hoosiers last season. However, a key difference this season is point guard Xavier Johnson, who transferred from Pitt and is playing at a very high level of late. Slowing him down tonight is a huge key in making things difficult for the home team on the offensive end. Geo Baker and Jalen Miller could be tasked with defending Johnson, but I wouldn’t be surprised if head coach Steve Pikiell mix in Caleb McConnell as well, who is four inches taller. His size and physicality can be effective in fighting through screens while his length can make it harder on Johnson as a distributor. The Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist needs to be disruptive regardless of who he defends and was everywhere the last time Rutgers won on the road at Wisconsin.
Another huge factor is bench play, as Rutgers has not gotten enough production in that area of late. Pikiell typically gives the bench a run 5-7 minutes into the game so they need to come in with energy and focus. Mawot Mag has been quiet of late but has potential to make an impact tonight based on matchups. Any scoring punch from Mag, Hyatt or Reiber would be huge, but overall their defensive play and rebounding is equally important to prevent Indiana from going on a run.
Defensively, Indiana is effective with the high pick and roll which opened up good looks from three-point range in their last game at Minnesota. The result was 10 made threes which absolutely can’t happen tonight. They cannot allow the Hoosiers to get hot from behind the arc as they rarely win when shooting below 30% from three, going 1-6 in Big Ten play when they’re under that mark. Overall, Rutgers hasn’t lost a conference game this season when holding opponents to 65 points or less, or as Pikiell calls it, holding them under the speed limit. Limiting them from deep is key to doing just that.
In three wins over Indiana last season, Ron Harper Jr. averaged 16.0 points but what stands out was his 31 rebounds and 18 free throw attempts in those victories. He’s at his best when he attacks the rim and is a force inside. He’s been effective against the Hoosiers in the paint despite the presence of Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is always good against Rutgers. As I wrote earlier this week that aside from Paul Mulcahy needing to get back on track, the Scarlet Knights are 7-1 when he grabs 8+ rebounds and 10-1 when Harper Jr. gets to the line for 5 or more attempts in a game. Get the senior star going downhill and his ability to finish near the rim will be a major factor as well.
At the end of the day, this game falls on the shoulders of the starters and specifically Geo Baker, Harper Jr., McConnell and Mulcahy. Getting Cliff Omouryi the ball is important, but the leadership and poise of these four is critical tonight. The season is in large part on the line and a win gives this team a major boost to their NCAA Tournament resume.
They’ve faced an absurd amount of adversity over the past three seasons and tonight will require they capitalize on the opportunity by relying on their experience. Play smart, attack the rim and get a foul prone Indiana defense to make mistakes, and weather any runs or potential setbacks they face through the course of the game. Keeping Indiana off the offensive glass is important and looking to run in transition is as well. They should have confidence they can beat Indiana once again and if they play with the same mindset they did at Wisconsin, a victory is there for the taking.
For tonight’s game, I selected “Back Against The Wall” by Cage The Elephant. A great band with an obvious perfectly titled song for this game.
Lyrics include, “Tonight, I’ll have a look and try to find my face again” and “You’ve got my back against the wall, Oh God, I ain’t got no other place to hide.”
The last week of the regular season is here and this core group of players know the circumstance they are in all too well. Road wins at Purdue and Minnesota the last two seasons helped solidify their NCAA Tournament candidacy and tonight is no different.
Rooting for a team with a chance to play their way into the NCAA Tournament on the last week of the season is nerve wracking enough. Doing it with one of the most improbable resumes of all-time for a group putting the finishing touches on their legacy brings high drama and anxiety. Rutgers has their backs are truly against the wall once again and history proves this group plays their best basketball when that’s the case. Hopefully, they can come through yet again tonight.