When the season began Rutgers was a near consensus last place prediction in the Big Ten.
Now Indiana goes to Piscataway in late January in desperate need of a win….and they are just a one point favorite. Worse yet, even that one point feels a little suspect. This is what it has come to as IU tries to snap a six game losing streak on Wednesday night in New Jersey.
Can you call this game a must win? It’s impossible to know that right now, but with a trip to East Lansing looming next, it sure feels like it.
Here’s the real question right now. If the Hoosiers can’t beat Rutgers, who can they beat on the rest of their schedule? Indiana needs to dig deep and find a way to win this game.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Indiana (12-8, 3-6) at Rutgers (10-9, 3-6)
- Tip time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Rutgers Athletic Center (8,000)
- Television: BTN (Kevin Kugler and Jon Crispin)
- Series: Indiana leads 6-1 (Rutgers won the last meeting 76-69 on March 1, 2018)
- Point Spread: Indiana is a 1-point favorite.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
Steve Pikiell is in his third season leading Rutgers.
Indiana (KenPom No. 45)
- Juwan Morgan, forward, 6-foot-8, 232 pounds, senior
- Justin Smith, forward, 6-foot-7, 227 pounds, sophomore
- Al Durham, guard, 6-foot-4, 181 pounds, sophomore
- Romeo Langford, guard, 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, freshman
- Rob Phinisee, guard, 6-foot-1, 182 pounds, freshman
Key bench players — Zach McRoberts (G), Damezi Anderson (F), Evan Fitzner (F), Clifton Moore (F), Jake Forrester (F), Race Thompson (F)
Rutgers (KenPom No. 97)
- Shaq Carter, forward, 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, junior
- Eugene Omoruyi, forward, 6-foot-7, 234 pounds, junior
- Shaquille Doorson, center, 7-foot-0, 275 pounds, senior
- Montez Mathis, guard, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, freshman
- Geo Baker, guard, 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, sophomore
Key bench players — Ron Harper, Jr. (F), Peter Kiss (G), Issa Thiam (F), Myles Johnson (C), Caleb McConnell (G)
- Archie Miller and Don Fischer discuss on their radio show
- Steve Pikiell previews the game
- Mike Schumann of TDH discusses the game on Indiana Sports Beat
TALE OF THE TAPE
KEYS TO VICTORY
Indiana’s Defense Needs to Dominate the Game
This game has the look of first one to 50 wins.
Rutgers only hits 40.5% of their shots from the field. Indiana only allows the opposition to shoot 41.5%. The Scarlet Knights don’t generate a lot of assists out of their offense. If the IU pack-line can keep Rutgers largely relegated to the perimeter shooting contested 3-pointers where they shoot just 31%, they should get plenty of stops.
But just getting stops in this one won’t be enough…
Keep Rutgers Off the Offensive Glass
The Scarlet Knights are big. Really big. They use that size to dominate the offensive glass with a Big Ten best 13.3 per game. It’s a sneaky way that Rutgers bridges the talent gap. Indiana is allowing 27.3% of opponent’s shots to be rebounded by the offense, which ranks 118th nationally.
There is a major risk in this game that the Scarlet Knights’ size wears Indiana out. That will be compounded if Rutgers is able to pick up extra possessions via offensive rebounds.
Don’t be surprised to see all of IU’s big men get some action in this one, including Clifton Moore, Jake Forrester and even Race Thompson if he is healthy.
Push the Tempo
Rutgers is ranked 36th nationally in KenPom defensive efficiency. They want to slow the game down and play tough hard-nosed defense. The Scarlet Knights are one of the best teams in the country at forcing opponents into long possessions.
Indiana cannot let that happen. Whether it comes from live ball turnovers are just pushing the ball up the court off Rutgers makes and misses, IU needs to play fast. The Hoosiers have the superior athletes here, and they can’t let Rutgers take that away. Moreover, if Indiana can force Rutgers’ oversized big men to run the court it might wear them down.
If Indiana can have some success in transition, it might also force Rutgers to think twice about sending so many players to the offensive glass.
Morgan to the Perimeter?
Juwan Morgan is going to have big bodies on him wearing him down in the paint. None of those guys are going to be comfortable guarding Morgan on the perimeter. Indiana would do well to get everyone out on the perimeter and use Rutgers’ size against them.
Knock Down Perimeter Shots
Sigh. It would be an incomplete analysis to leave it out, but this one really doesn’t require further explanation at this point.
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