Another game, another must-win for the Hoosiers. With the season winding down and the bubble beginning to burst, each victory begins to feel like a Kilimanjaro size accomplishment. The stakes can’t get any higher. As Joe Lunardi’s Twitter fingers turn to trigger fingers, teams are dropping like flies and starting to face the reality of their situations. For those still in the hunt like IU, each game is an opportunity to delay that sunset and find a way to squeak its way into the NCAA Tournament.
Next up for Indiana in its battle for survival is Rutgers. In their first matchup, Rutgers defeated IU 68-58. It was an ugly night for Indiana, where they went long stretches without a bucket. In recent games, however, IU has begun to turn the tide and build some momentum. Now, after an offensive explosion in their victory against Illinois on Thursday, their 2 victories over Michigan State, and a W over Wisconsin, Indiana has left the post-season door cracked open and faces Rutgers with an opportunity to not only avenge that loss but also to fight to save their season.
It’s the final regular-season game of the year – – an early afternoon tip with all eyes on the Hoosiers. The stage is set and the hype is real.
Here is everything you need to know about 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 13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.
- Geo Baker – 6’4” / 180 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Derry, NH. – Baker averages 12.6 points, 4.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. He also leads the team with 2.9 turnovers per game. Baker is also one of the team’s best three-point shooters at a 34.3% clip.
- 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 7.8 points and 3.0 rebounds.
- Montez Mathis – 6’4” / 200 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Baltimore, MD. – Averages 8.8 points and 2.9 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 4.5 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. – Update: 3/9: Issa Thiam has been arrested and suspended indefinitely from the program.He began the season as a starter but has recently transitioned into coming off the bench. He averages 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds.
- Peter Kiss – 6’5” / 200 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – New York, NY. – Kiss is the team’s fifth leading scorer with 6.1 points per game.
- Myles Johnson – 6’10” / 255 lbs / Forward-Center / Freshman – Long Beach, CA. – Johnson is the team’s second-best rebounder, averaging 5.5 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.
For Rutgers, Issa Thiam was arrested on criminal charges and is currently suspended from the team.
Likewise, Indiana is finally healthy. The only missing piece is Jerome Hunter, who 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.
What to Watch for:
- Who Controls The Paint? – Both teams make their living inside of the arc. For Indiana, 56.4% of their total points come from 2-pointers (15th in the nation). Likewise, 54.9% of Rutgers’ total points come from 2-pointers (32nd). The game will be won in the trenches. The team that will be able to best control the paint and assert their dominance will have a distinct advantage.
- Spreading the Wealth – It’s no secret that IU has struggled all season to find production from the bench. The last meeting between these two teams highlights this issue, as the Hoosiers only got 2 points from bench contributors. This problem is even particularly worrisome against a team like Rutgers that places a lot of trust in their second unit. For example, in the first meeting, Rutgers had 9 players that saw at least 10 minutes on the floor and each of the players scored. Lately, IU has been getting more from the bench (the second unit chipped in 15 points against Michigan State and 24 against Illinois). In order for the Hoosiers to secure the victory, the bench must be productive on both ends of the court. Even if the buckets aren’t falling offensively, they will need to be active on defense to limit Rutgers’ bench.
- Justin Smith – Justin Smith has been an unsung hero for IU this season. From his athleticism to his scrappiness in the post to his three-point shooting, Smith’s versatility has been a tremendous asset. Many of IU’s best victories have been accompanied by Smith’s best performances. In the most recent victory over Michigan State he posted 24 points and in the victory over Wisconsin he dropped 12 and 6. Smith’s play adds another dimension to the Indiana team and his production lessens the pressure on the rest of the offense. Look for Smith to have a big game and continue to prove his value.
- The Glass – Rutgers is 3rd in the Big Ten in rebounding. It will be crucial for IU to be aggressive on the boards and limit Rutgers second chance opportunities. To put it simply, Indiana needs to be competitive on the glass. The Hoosiers cannot afford to be on the wrong end of lopsided rebounding totals. This is easily one of the most important keys to the game. Rutgers is 320th in effective field-goal percentage. The Scarlet Knights rely on rebounds to extend offensive positions and keep them in the game. If Indiana can control (or at least compete on) the glass, they can suffocate the Rutgers offense.
- Romeo – It’s time. Romeo Langford has been great this season. But now, as desperation sets in, Romeo has the perfect opportunity to take the team by the scruff of the neck and drag them across the finish line. It’s the moment for Romeo to take over. Part of Romeo’s brilliance is his smooth, never out of control play. He has a great feel for the game and always makes the right decision. It’s like the old cliché says: “he lets the game come to him.” However, now that he has matured and began to feel more comfortable, this is the ultimate opportunity to flip the switch and single-handedly will the team into the tournament. It’s time for him to be a little selfish. Not only does he deserve it, but the team needs it. With the NBA Draft calling, his era in the cream and crimson is dwindling, so why not go out with a blaze of glory? The time has come for Romeo to write his storybook ending.
How to Watch
|Date||Sunday, March 10th|
|Time||12:00 PM EST|