Indiana heads east this week and travels to New Jersey to take on Rutgers on Wednesday in hopes of ending their recent woes. The Big Ten season has not been kind to the Hoosiers. The team’s six-game losing streak has been a combination of poor play, lack of energy, and the lingering effects of IU’s injury situation. Currently, Indiana sits at 12-8 (T-9th in the conference). Still, despite the recent downward spiral, there is plenty of time to right the ship. In fact, the Hoosiers still have 4 games remaining against teams that are currently in the top 20. Nonetheless, the current state of affairs has added extra pressure to compile as many victories as possible. Unfortunately for the Cream and Crimson, there are no easy victories in the Big Ten.
As for the next opponent, Rutgers is much more competitive than previous years and no longer occupies the basement of the conference. The Scarlet Knights are tied with IU for 9th in the conference and sit at 10-9 overall. Rutgers is coming off of consecutive victories over Nebraska and Penn State.
In particular, Rutgers is especially dangerous at home. So far this season, 8 of their 10 victories have come at home. Thus, the Hoosiers can expect another difficult atmosphere and another gritty opponent.
Let’s dive into the details of the matchup:
Meet the Scarlet Knights
- Corey Sanders – 6’2” / 176 lbs / Guard – Lakeland, FL.
- Deshawn Freeman – 6’7” / 227 lbs / Forward – Rocky Mount, NC.
- Mike Williams – 6’2” / 196 lbs / Guard – Brooklyn, NY.
- Candido Sa – 6’9” / 235 lbs / Forward – Lisbon, Portugal.
- Souf Mensah – 6’2” / 220 lbs / Guard – Nantes, France.
- Jake Dadika – 6’1” / 170 lbs / Guard – Milltown, NJ.
- Matt Bullock – 6’4” / 260 lbs / Forward – Elizabeth, NJ.
- Eugene Omoruyi – 6’7” / 240 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Rexdale, Ontario, Canada. – The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. Recently rejoined the team after missing a few games due to injury.
- Geo Baker – 6’4” / 180 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Derry, NH. – Baker averages 13.5 points, 4.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. He also shoots 36.2% from three.
- Ron Harper Jr. – 6’6” / 230 lbs / Guard-Forward / Freshman – Franklin Lakes, NJ. – Harper started the season coming off the bench but has moved into a starting role. He averages 6.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.
- Montez Mathis – 6’4” / 200 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Baltimore, MD. – Averages 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
- Shaquille Doorson – 7’0” / 275 lbs / Center / Graduate Student – Amsterdam, The Netherlands. – Doorson provides a nice inside presence, mainly contributing through his 4.9 rebounds per game. Although starting, he typically only averages 17.9 minutes per game.
- Issa Thiam – 6’10” / 190 lbs / Guard-Forward / Junior – Dakar, Senegal. – He began the season as a starter but has recently transitioned into coming off the bench. Despite his new role, he is still plays starter’s minutes at 21.3 per game. He averages 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
- Peter Kiss – 6’5” / 200 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – New York, NY. – Kiss is the team’s fourth leading scorer with 7.7 points per game.
- Myles Johnson – 6’10” / 255 lbs / Forward-Center / Freshman – Long Beach, CA. – Johnson is the team’s second best rebounder, averaging 5.2 per game.
- Caleb McConnell – 6’6” / 190 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Jacksonville, FL.
- Shaq Carter – 6’9” / 245 lbs / Forward / Junior – Fort Lauderdale, FL.
- Mamadou Doucoure – 6’9” / 215 lbs / Forward-Guard / Sophomore – Bamako, Mali.
Game Expectations for the Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knights may still sit in the bottom half of the conference table, but they are much more competitive than they have been in recent years. They even secured a victory over then-#16 Ohio State earlier in the season. It seems the team has finally taken a step forward with their rebuild and shown massive improvement.
Rutgers is not an overly explosive offense. In fact, the squad only averages 67 points per game. The Scarlet Knights are heavily reliant on two players above all that have a staggering impact on the team’s production. Eugene Omoruyi and Geo Baker provide 40.9% of the team’s scoring, 50% of the team’s assists, and 25.6% of the team’s rebounding. The performance of these two players largely dictates the Rutgers outcome.
Another important factor is the Rutgers defense. Rutgers has the 34th best defense in terms of efficiency, according to KenPom. The eye test also bears this out. When Rutgers is winning, it is because of their defense. In each of their 10 victories, Rutgers has held their opponents to under the 70 point threshold. Overall, on the season, their opponents only average 66.6 points per game. However, this number is heavily skewed by non-conference games. Conference play has been a different story. Rutgers has been much less effective on the defensive end in the Big Ten, as their opponents’ scoring average has ballooned to 72.9 points per game. Still, keep your eye on the 70 point threshold, if the Hoosiers can break this barrier, there is a good chance they can come away with the W.
Other Rutgers statistics of note:
- Average length of possession: 17.4 seconds
- Average 13 turnovers per game
- 52.9% of their points come from 2-point shots (a.k.a. not prolific shooting 3s)
- Field-goal percentage: 40.5%
- Three-point shooting percentage: 31.3%
Race Thompson has been cleared for contact and has recently been upgraded to available. While his return is a source of great optimism, Archie Miller emphasized that he is “not anywhere near” game shape. After considering redshirting, a return is now back on the table. With an early-season groin/thigh injury and then a concussion which has kept him sidelined since November, Thompson has only logged 4 minutes this season (a single appearance against Montana State).
Jerome Hunter has declared his intention to sit out the rest of the year as a redshirt. Hunter suffered a leg injury which required surgery and has not seen the floor this season.
While not injured, Devonte Green will be unavailable after being suspended indefinitely for “not meeting the standards expected of members of the program.”
De’Ron Davis is still nursing an ankle injury he suffered against Illinois earlier in the month. After missing the Northwestern and Michigan games, Davis is likely out again for Wednesday’s contest. Archie Miller noted that Davis would be shut down until he has 100% recovered.
What to Watch for:
- Who’s the man? – Romeo Langford is a terrific talent with a versatile skill-set. Part of his appeal is that Langford is a willing passer and team player. Sure, Langford gets his touches and his shots, but he has yet to really take over a game and will the team to victory. At times, he is almost too unselfish. Similarly, Juwan Morgan has sustained back-to-back-to-back sequences but these have mostly occurred in the first half of games (i.e. Purdue). It still doesn’t seem like the Hoosiers have decided who is “the man.” Who is going to take the most important shots? Who is going to double down and willingly take the scoring burden upon himself when others are struggling? The team has yet to anoint this player. Even unselfish, team-oriented offenses need a focal point. Who will step up and become the focal point for IU?
- Three-point drought – There is one noticeable weakness in the Rutgers defense. They do not defend the three well, as their opponents shoot 35.9% from deep. Unfortunately, for IU, shooting three-pointers is not a Hoosier specialty. IU continues to struggle from beyond the arc. Against Northwestern, the team made only 4 out of 21 attempts (19%). The team followed this up with a 3 for 20 three-point shooting performance against Michigan (15%). The lack of consistent outside shooting has plagued Indiana all season long. The inability to knockdown threes impacts the game in several ways. First, the defenses will play off of the perimeter making it more difficult to drive to the basket (which is one of IU’s strengths). Secondly, the lack of shooting effects floor spacing and playcalling. And, finally, shooting the three is the easiest way to crawl back into a game when trailing. Without this tool, when falling behind an opponent, IU struggles immensely to catch up. In other words, shooting from beyond the arc is important and the current drought has severely impacted the team.
- Where’s the bench? – It’s no secret that the Hoosiers have suffered several injuries that have stunted their depth. However, any given game, IU still struggles to find bench contributors. They not only struggle to find production, but struggle just to find quality minutes. Currently, five Hoosiers average 25+ minutes per game (if you include Green who was recently suspended indefinitely, that number is six). But, in recent games, the bench has been receiving even less minutes. Against Northwestern, five players played 33+ minutes, another played 19 minutes, and the rest of the bench (four players) played 14 minutes combined. Essentially, it was a six man rotation. Similarly, against Michigan, the bench woes continued. In fact, this time, the coaching staff only chose to play three off the bench. Durham was the major bench contributor, playing 32 minutes, while Fitzner played 13 and Anderson played 9 minutes. The lack of depth and lack of bench contributions has been a large factor in IU’s recent struggles.
- The Battle of the Boards – Rebounding could be a major factor in the game. Rutgers is the 39th best offensive rebounding team in the nation. Whereas, IU is the 65th best defensive rebounding team. Who will win this battle?
- Tears and Fears – It’s time for a public service announcement: let’s calm down. Yes, recent games have caused frustration. Yes, there have been not only consecutive losses but also consecutive weak performances. Still, let’s not overexaggerate. Remember, right before the Michigan game, IU was ranked by Jay Bilas as a 46th best team in the nation. Sure, the team got the doors blown off by Michigan. But, they are the #5 team in the nation. Even after the Michigan loss, Joe Lunardi ranked IU at #37 (even after the loss!). It may look like the Hoosiers are in a spiral, but things are not as bad as they seem. Right now and for the rest of the season, the main thing to watch for is how the players respond. Does the noise get to them? Can they string together a couple victories to rebuild their confidence? Are they still focusing on the fundamentals? Are they playing hard? How are the young players progressing?
How to Watch
|Date||Wednesday, January 30th|
|Time||7:00 PM EST|