The Minute After: Rutgers

  • 02/07/2023 9:23 pm in

Thoughts on a 66-60 win against Rutgers:

In its last several home wins, the Hoosiers have set the tone in the first half, their offense scorching the opponent as they head into halftime on a high note.

It looked like that would be the case again this evening against Rutgers.

Indiana led by 14 points (30-16) with 7:54 to go in the first half. It was a balanced attack with Jalen Hood-Schifino, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Trey Galloway, Miller Kopp, Malik Reneau and Tamar Bates all scoring.

But it was fleeting.

Indiana got sloppy down the stretch and Rutgers pulled a rabbit out of its hat on offense, knocking down 6-of-11 from deep and hitting some contested, late-in-the-shot-clock attempts carrying a high degree of difficulty. Indiana held just a three-point lead (38-35) into the break. With the way Rutgers defends and mucks the game up (zone, man, full-court pressure), Indiana couldn’t lose focus or a letdown loss after the high of the Purdue game would be the result.

It was far from the prettiest second half. Far from the apex of Indiana’s potential. And things got dicey. The Hoosiers didn’t make a field goal from the 11:09 mark until the 2:26 mark, a stretch of almost nine minutes of game action. But they did make five free throws during that stretch opposite a struggling Rutgers offense. And then the Hoosiers made the plays down the stretch when it mattered to seal the deal and survive.

Jackson-Davis was able to snag a Race Thompson airball for that bucket at the 2:26 mark. Indiana got another second-chance make on Galloway’s offensive-rebound putback with 48 seconds left. Rutgers didn’t make a field goal during the final 2:26 until a Clifford Omoruyi dunk near the buzzer.

“We were locked in,” Jackson-Davis said on the Big Ten Network broadcast. “This is a different team than last year.”

Against the No. 2 defense in the country, per KenPom, Jackson-Davis was an inefficient 3-of-9 in the second half and turned the ball over three times. Hood-Schifino went 0-of-4. Thompson and Galloway combined to go just 1-of-7 as Indiana shot a measly 32 percent (8-of-25) from the floor. But just as he did in Piscataway, Miller Kopp got buckets thanks to Rutgers giving him space. Kopp banged home 2-of-3 from deep and 3-of-4 from the floor in the second half to score a team-high 10 points. Kopp added eight in the first half for 18 total, just two behind Jackson-Davis’ 20. The Northwestern transfer was also great defensively, picking up two steals and a block while being active all game long.

The Scarlet Knights were a similarly putrid 10-of-31 (32.3 percent) from the floor in the second half, which helped balance the scales. And while the Hoosiers turned it over on 22 percent of their possessions this evening, they hit 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) from the line to Rutgers’ 6-of-10 (60 percent) — a plus-11 mark. In a lower-scoring affair, Indiana’s advantage on free throws was a big key to victory.

After losing six straight which encapsulated the entirety of Jackson-Davis’ IU tenure, the Hoosiers grinded it out to get their first win against the Scarlet Knights since 2019.

“Tonight was another team effort,” Mike Woodson said. “I thought everybody that played helped gut this out.”

It’s now seven wins for the Hoosiers in their last eight tries. Tonight’s win moves them into a tie for second place in the Big Ten, the three-game losing streak in early January feeling like the distant past.

But the end of the season is shaping up to be a challenge. Four of the final seven games are on the road, including Indiana’s next two (Michigan, Northwestern). The final road game is a rematch with Purdue. In a tight Big Ten race where so many teams are bottled up, the Hoosiers need to keep their foot on the gas.

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