INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In a literal must-win game, Indiana (12-15) fell 61-50 to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-10) who are a projected 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana has lost both games they played against Rutgers this season and 5 of their last 6 to them. Also, Indiana has now lost in their first Big Ten Tournament game in 5 of the last 7 appearances.
For the first time in several weeks, Indiana was able to have the assistance of Armaan Franklin on the court after recovering from his ankle injury. Having both Franklin and Race Thompson on the court was essential to give Indiana a shot in beating the Scarlet Knights, but it was not enough.
Similar to other recent games this season, Indiana went out to a fast start led by First-Team All-Big Ten selection Trayce Jackson-Davis who ultimately ended the game with 19 points and 9 rebounds. He led Indiana’s attack in the paint and caused tremendous difficulty for Rutgers to get any momentum especially down low throughout the first half and the entirety of the game.
As the first half progressed, Rutgers became more comfortable shooting the three and hit four straight near the end of the half. Ron Harper Jr. hit a pair and Geo Baker and Jacob Young hit one apiece. Indiana failed to gain much stability in their shooting, and ultimately were trailing by one at the half.
The second half started no better than the first half ended as Rutgers extended their scoring streak to 8-0 over 5 minutes until Jackson-Davis was able to end the scoring drought, but were still committing careless mistakes and turnovers.
However, after a couple of dunks by Jackson-Davis, momentum swung towards Indiana behind a biased Indiana crowd excited to see Indiana play in person. This excitement quickly faded away and Indiana became cold again while Rutgers Guard Mulcahy hit a pair of threes and brought their lead back to 7. The final ten minutes were completely one sided with Rutgers slowly adding on to their lead and making it unreachable for Indiana.
Ultimately, the scoring droughts and the one-dimensional offense by the Hoosiers were too much for them to overcome. A nearly 10 minute field goal drought to end the game along with the inability to hit free throws (6/15, 42.9%) and three-point shots (13%) were the dagger that ended the Hoosiers’ season. Solely relying on the strength and presence of Jackson-Davis was not sufficient for them to overcome Rutgers tonight and this weakness has been exploited numerous times especially as the season has worn on. Looking at Rutgers’ distribution of scoring, they had four players with over 10 points while Indiana only had Jackson-Davis.
Now, we enter the offseason and await the fate of which players will graduate, transfer, or enter the NBA draft. Also, attention will shift to the coaching staff to see what changes, if any, are needed this offseason to ensure the future success of the Indiana program.
Indiana’s season is effectively over unless they choose to accept an NIT invitation, which seems unlikely. They will likely now prepare for 2021-2022.
Cover Photo: Indiana University Men’s Basketball