Film Session: Rutgers
In its win against the Hoosiers on Saturday, Rutgers busted out a familiar playbook, one Indiana fans know all too well over the last several seasons.
The strategy? Send extra help defense to Trayce Jackson-Davis to get the ball out of his hands. Pack the paint. Dare Indiana’s supporting cast, sometimes the non-shooting big playing opposite Jackson-Davis, to make 3-pointers.
Indiana’s .72 points per possession on offense were the worst of the Mike Woodson era. This game had a similar feel and near identical numbers to Indiana’s trip to Rutgers in the 2019-2020 season. In that contest, the Hoosiers scored just .74 points per possession and only 50 points, shooting a rough 2-of-19 from 3-point range as Rutgers took away Jackson-Davis and made the Hoosiers shoot it from deep.
Different seasons, different expectations, new regime. But the same results.
We’ll take a look at how Rutgers got it done in the latest edition of Film Session:
Near the beginning of the game, Indiana runs a high ball screen between Xavier Johnson and Jackson-Davis. But things get gummed up pretty quickly here. Cam Spencer tags Jackson-Davis and Mawot Mag leaves Race Thompson to bring another defender on Jackson-Davis’ roll. There’s no room for either Jackson-Davis to receive a pass or Johnson to get downhill.
So Johnson takes what the defense gives the Hoosiers: a pass to Thompson on the left wing. He’s wide open but fails to take the shot and passes back to Johnson. Johnson dishes it right back. Thompson hesitates on the shot and Mag dances back and forth, daring him to shoot. He finally does, but the shot doesn’t fall, hitting the front of the rim.
There was talk of an improved 3-point shot from Thompson this season from his teammates, but he’s lost confidence in the shot as the season has gone along. Rutgers knows it and defended him accordingly. The Minnesota native is just 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) on 3-pointers this season after Saturday’s loss.
This time around, Thompson isn’t on the floor. But Rutgers plays Malik Reneau similarly. Mag sags off Reneau on the right slot, allowing Rutgers to double-front Jackson-Davis and ward off an entry pass from Tamar Bates on the right wing. Reneau gets the ball open for a shot but doesn’t take it. From there, this one evolves into a side ball screen between Renaeau and Bates.
It ends in a contested long 2 from Bates that misses. That’s an inefficient shot Rutgers will live with on dang near every possession.
On our third play, it’s now Jordon Geronimo’s turn to be left by Mag. After Jackson-Davis receives the ball on the right low block extended, Mag comes to double-team him. This allows Geronimo to clear to the weak-side corner with no one on him. Jackson-Davis throws the skip pass to Bates on the left wing and quickly swings the ball to Geronimo.
He rises, fires and … badly airballs the corner 3-point attempt.
Indiana made the right play here. But, as so often happened in this one, it ended in a missed shot.
While TJD’s supporting cast missed shots, all the attention he received meant he had a few slip-ups himself. Here’s a look at two of his turnovers. On the first, Rutgers has five players in the paint, but Jackson-Davis tries passing from the right low block to Thompson under the basket, a pass that just isn’t there with Caleb McConnell and Aundre Hyatt looming. Later, as Jackson-Davis has Dean Reiber guarding him on the right low block and Hyatt behind him after he’s left Reneau, Derek Simpson digs off the perimeter as Jackson-Davis turns over his right shoulder, stripping the ball for a steal.