You know that relaxed feeling that you had when Indiana ran out to a 24-8 first half lead? The IU players had it too. And it got them beat. From that point forward Rutgers had more energy in just about every aspect of the game and it followed a red hot Corey Sanders to victory. The Hoosiers’ misery in the Big Ten tournament continues, and now they are left to wait to see if they will be invited to any postseason play. If you believe this NIT bracketology, Indiana was barely in that tournament before last night’s loss. After so many bad losses, don’t be surprised if Indiana’s season is over. The Hoosiers lose this one, 76-69 and drop to 16-15 on the season.
Overall: C The stories of the game really were (i) that blown lead and (ii) Indiana just plainly being outworked. And those two things were intertwined. It wasn’t just that IU below a 17-3 lead (or 24-8 lead if you prefer), it was how quickly it blew that lead. Against a team like Rutgers that struggles to score you might expect them to be able to grind away at a big lead over the course of an entire game. They did it in about 8 minutes. It was like someone flipped a switch, and the same switch that turned Rutgers on turned IU off. Rutgers played the way IU had played during much of their improved portion of the season — they grinded away and they wanted it more. It was an incredibly disappointing thing to behold.
Coaching: C Archie Miller didn’t do a good job reading his team on this night. During that Rutgers run Indiana probably should have called one, if not two or more timeouts. Once the Scarlet Knights got it going Indiana quickly had the look of a team on its heels. No one knows this team better than Miller, but something needed to be done to stem the tide, and instead the tide turned into a tsunami. Irrespective of whether a timeout should have been called, it was disappointing that IU never really had an answer once Rutgers got it rolling. Archie Miller knows how to get a team to play like Rutgers did, but it doesn’t appear that he knew how to stop them.
Offense: C After Indiana’s hot start, it was like Rutgers had an impenetrable force field at about the 3 point line. The Hoosiers couldn’t generate open looks from distance over it, and they couldn’t find lanes to dribble drive. When they got the ball to Juwan Morgan, the Rutgers defense was effective at collapsing on him. Indiana struggled to get anything going. At times they struggled to even pass the ball. The 11 turnovers don’t sound bad, but 5 of the 11 were from the point of the 24-8 lead to the end of the half. Overall the Hoosiers shot 35.8% and 25% from distance. The only bright spot here was free throw shooting where IU shot 86.2%. For a change it was the only thing that kept Indiana in the game.
Defense: C+ Despite Rutgers shooting 58% from the field, this wasn’t as bad as it might appear. The Scarlet Knights only had six assists on the game, which tells you that IU was effective at reducing Rutgers to one on one basketball. The trouble is, the Scarlet Knights were quite effective one on one. To us, if a player is reduced to taking a step-back jumper, you’ve played good defense. How many step-backs did Corey Sanders hit? Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to your opponent. Indiana was also effective at keeping a good offensive rebounding team off the boards. Rutgers only had two on the night. The real problem here was that Indiana’s defense was never disruptive. It needed to be able to generate more than 11 turnovers on a night when Rutgers was hitting their shots.
Players with meaningful minutes:
- Al Durham, Jr.: B+ Have you ever seen a guy score in double digits without officially attempting a shot from the field? That is remarkable. Durham was solid out on the floor and seemed to be a guy that wanted to try to match Rutgers’ energy. He didn’t have much help there.
- Josh Newkirk: C+ The story of his season was his inability to knock down shots, and that story didn’t end on this night. Newkirk was 1-7 from the field and his futility here became a liability as the season wore on.
- Justin Smith: C Not a good showing for a freshman with a lot of promise. He had three turnovers in 15 minutes and looked too anxious to make something happen.
- Robert Johnson: B- A rough shooting night, and as we know by now, IU struggles mightily when Johnson is off. He struggled trying to stop Sanders, but as we discussed, often that was more about Sanders just being on fire. But the 4-16 shooting night is the story here. He did add 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
- Devonte Green: C Green is such a hard guy to read. Our guess is that he isn’t responding well to defensive intensity. Some of his better games were against teams that don’t guard you like Iowa and Minnesota. He started off decent on this night, but once Rutgers ramped up the energy, he disappeared.
- Juwan Morgan: A- It’s just too much to ask of one player. As we’ve seen too many times this year, Morgan was the only viable offensive option on the floor. And Rutgers knew it. And they got away with a lot of banging on the junior forward. He still managed 15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. But he had no help. None.
- Zach McRoberts: B- For as much as we love the guy, you have to wonder about the efficacy of a lineup that includes him and McSwain. That puts so much pressure on the rest of the lineup to score. He knocked down an early 3-pointer, which is exactly what this team needs, but that was it for the game. The Rutgers defense was so disruptive that even he looked flustered trying to facilitate the offense.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: B- As always it was a mixed bag with Freddie. He certainly did some good things out there but it is always a trade-off — and it isn’t all his fault. He is playing out of position and being asked to do too much.
- Collin Hartman: C+ He was put in the game to knock down shots and he just can’t get it going. It is sad to watch. His monster game at Wisconsin and all of the promise that went with it has faded away, one injury at a time.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
Photo credit – John Munson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com