PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Even with two top-15 wins under their belt, the Indiana Hoosiers had to answer one major question: Can they go on the road in the Big Ten and win? For another day, the answer remains no, as the Hoosiers (13-4, 3-3 B1G) fell to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-4, 4-2), 59-50.
Indiana could not have started the game more poorly. The same starting lineup that helped the Hoosiers jump out in front of Ohio State did not show up early on in New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights scored the game’s first 12 points in 2:30. Not only did the Rutgers players cause IU fits, but the boisterous crowd at the Rutgers Athletics Center (RAC) also contributed to the flat start. IU missed their first three shots and turned it over twice in that span.
Using a heightened defensive effort and better looks inside, IU gradually chipped away at the Scarlet Knights’ lead. Justin Smith scored IU’s first field goal, Trayce Jackson-Davis made one of his own, and Al Durham scored an “and-1” bucket before the first media timeout. Joey Brunk contributed in multiple ways as well on both ends of the floor.
After opening up a 17-7 lead, Rutgers scored just 4 points in 9:09 span. During that stretch, a minor flashpoint occurred when Al Durham was taken down to the ground by Rutgers’ Montez Mathis. After a length review, the referees hit Mathis with a flagrant-one foul. Durham made both free throws, Joey Brunk knocked down a jumper, and Smith scored a fastbreak bucket. Indiana led, 22-21.
Rather than building on the lead, Indiana allowed Rutgers to jump back in front and expand the advantage. Sloppy turnovers from Durham and Devonte Green, as well as two badly misfired shot attempts from Smith, set the Hoosiers back. The Scarlet Knights went on 10-2 run that gave them a 7-point lead into halftime.
After the break, Indiana’s offensive struggles continued, if not worsened. IU missed their first 8 field goal attempts in the 2nd period, and only hit one bucket in an 11:52 span overlapping both halves. Head coach Archie Miller took his frustration out on the officials, getting called for a technical foul, the 2nd of his IU coaching tenure.
A season-long issue for Indiana resurfaced in this game: three-point shooting. The success they had against #11 Ohio State (8-for-16) did not carry over to tonight. The Hoosiers missed their first 13 long-distance attempts and finished 2-for-19 from beyond the arc. They will look to improve in that area against Nebraska on Saturday.
Rutgers took their largest lead of the night at 45-28 after junior guard Geo Baker scored in transition. Baker returned for the Scarlet Knights after missing three games with a broken thumb. Late in the 2nd half, Baker threw down a thunderous dunk over Brunk that essentially iced the victory for his team.
Number of the Night: 12
Coming into this game, Indiana led the nation, averaging 27.1 free throw attempts per game. In this contest, the Hoosiers only took 12 free throw attempts all night, with only four coming in the first half. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Devonte Green, who took 17 combined free throw attempts against the Buckeyes, did not take even one against the Scarlet Knights.
Next Up: @ Nebraska
The Hoosiers travel 1,177 miles across the country (with a pitstop in Bloomington) to go from the easternmost campus (Rutgers) to the westernmost campus (Nebraska). Indiana will meet the Cornhuskers for the second time this season, after a close call at home back in December. Since the two last met, Nebraska has defeated Purdue and Iowa, but they also lost to Rutgers, North Dakota, and Northwestern.
Catch that game Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET on BTN.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ