Five takeaways from Indiana’s loss at Rutgers

  • 01/10/2024 9:06 am in

Indiana led by seven in the first half but collapsed in a 66-57 loss to Rutgers on Tuesday at Jersey Mike’s Arena.

Here are five takeaways from the loss to the Scarlet Knights:

Xavier Johnson’s turnovers and ejection show a lack of leadership

The return of Xavier Johnson after a seven-game absence was expected to boost Indiana’s backcourt.

Johnson played well in Saturday’s win against Ohio State, but has been a negative in road losses at Nebraska and Rutgers. His play and decision-making on Tuesday at Rutgers were disappointing.

The sixth-year point guard turned the ball over five times and was ejected early in the second half for taking a shot at Antwone Woolfolk below the belt. The play was reviewed after Woolfolk knocked Johnson to the ground with just over 13 minutes remaining. Replay showed Johnson hitting Woolfolk in the groin area, deemed a flagrant two and an ejection.

In a winnable road game for the Hoosiers, Johnson chose to hit an opponent below the belt and risk ejection over being available for his team. That’s not leadership.

Johnson is one of Indiana’s two appointed team captains but isn’t playing like one. In 38 minutes against Nebraska and Rutgers, Johnson has scored two points and committed nine turnovers.

Indiana is going too deep into its bench

Mike Woodson didn’t like the questions about his substitution patterns in the postgame, but the inquiries were fair. The Hoosiers played 10 players in the first half of Tuesday’s loss, and the mass substitutions failed as a seven-point lead quickly evaporated.

Rather than sprinkling in a sub or two, Indiana had two different instances where it had four subs and a starter on the floor in the first half.

When asked about the substitutions, Woodson offered this response:

“I’m not going to sit here and answer that question when it comes to the fans or you. I elected to go to my bench, which I’ve done this season, and I’ve gotten some good results here and there. And tonight, they didn’t kill us but they let them back in the game. And I thought we withstood it. The big shot at the half I thought gave them momentum going in, but the game was still back and forth.

“Then X (Xavier Johnson) has his little fiasco where he gets kicked out and that changes the game a little bit. At the two-minute mark, we were down six, two possessions and we foul. And then we come back and get an intentional foul. So that’s the game, pretty much. Now you’re scrambling trying to win the game down the stretch. We just gotta be more solid … like we play at home, we gotta play that way on the road. And I gotta get us to that point.”

While Indiana has tried to develop a reliable bench, the Hoosiers are now 16 games into the season and the bench is still unreliable. Playing bench-heavy lineups in a crucial and winnable road game in conference play is a recipe for failure.

Rutgers dominates Indiana on the offensive glass

After allowing Ohio State to grab 22 offensive rebounds on Saturday in Bloomington, Indiana didn’t shore up its defensive rebounding against Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights grabbed 19 offensive rebounds against Indiana, turning into 12 second-chance points.

Indiana pulled down only eight offensive rebounds and scored just one second-chance point.

In Big Ten play, opponents rebound 34.2 percent of their missed shots against Indiana.

Despite ranking third in the country in average height – according to KenPom – the Hoosiers continue to be a poor rebounding team on both ends. Indiana ranks outside the top 225 nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentages.

Turnovers again prove costly in a road loss

Indiana’s 19 turnovers in a loss at Nebraska last week were abnormally high.

But the turnover issue arose again on Tuesday in Piscataway. The Hoosiers committed 18 turnovers, leading to 18 points for the Scarlet Knights.

In five Big Ten games, Indiana is turning it over on 20.2 percent of its possessions, the second worst in the league.

Most of the turnovers have resulted from Indiana forcing passes that aren’t there or players attempting to handle the ball who shouldn’t be.

Johnson’s five turnovers were a team-high, but every Indiana starter had at least two in the loss.

Indiana leaves 11 points at the free-throw line

Getting to the foul line is a major strength of Indiana’s offense.

The Hoosiers only got to the line 15 times on Tuesday, compared to 28 attempts for Rutgers.

But the disparity was made worse by Indiana’s poor shooting at the line. The Hoosiers went 4-for-15 from the stripe and were outscored by 15 points on free throws by Rutgers.

“If I had a magic pill that I could give them about making free throws, I would,” Woodson said in the postgame.

Five conference games in, Indiana ranks last in the Big Ten in free throw percentage at 60.7.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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