JERSEY MIKE’S ARENA (IUSTV Sports) – For the second time in a week, Indiana went on the road. For the second time in a week, Indiana had an abysmal performance that highlighted issues that they have had throughout the entire season.
The Hoosiers lost to Rutgers 66-57. It was the fifth straight loss for Indiana at Rutgers, with the last win at Jersey Mike’s Arena (formerly known as The RAC) being in 2018.
There were a lot of reasons the Hoosiers lost the game tonight. Turnovers were yet again an issue. Indiana had 11 turnovers in the first half and ended the game with 18. The last road game Indiana played, against Nebraska last Wednesday, they had 19 turnovers.
Xavier Johnson had five of the turnovers before he was ejected in the second half. The starting backcourt of Johnson and Trey Galloway combined for seven assists and seven turnovers.
The ball was consistently forced inside to Indiana’s big man duo of Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau, especially in the first half. Rutgers, the stout defensive team that they are, had a good gameplan and forced sloppy Indiana passes that resulted in giveaways.
“When you turn it over and give up offensive rebounds like we did and can’t make free throws, it’s hard to win on the road,” Mike Woodson said.
In back-to-back games, the Hoosiers could not clean up the glass on defensive possessions. The Scarlet Knights pulled down 19 offensive rebounds, snagging over 37% of their misses (the nationwide average is 29.5%).
With a starting frontcourt of three players 6’8 or taller, Indiana has not been a good rebounding team. Kel’el Ware was the only player tonight that consistently rebound, pulling down a career high 17 boards.
Finally, it was the free throw issue that has been plaguing Indiana all season. They shot just 4-15 from the line tonight (26.7%), which is never going to help a team win a game. Everyone struggled, including Mackenzie Mgbako. The freshman had missed just two free throws all season. Tonight, he missed three, including making just one of three free throws after being fouled on a three point shot.
“It’s all mental,” Woodson said. “When you get fouled and you gotta go to the line, they’re free. So you should feel good about yourself and go up and knock them down..”
There are a lot of problems that Indiana has to fix on Friday when Minnesota comes to Assembly Hall. Against power conference teams this year, Indiana has played well at home, and their issues have been quieted at least to an extent.
Those issues will face a gauntlet very quickly. After hosting Minnesota on Friday, the Hoosiers face Purdue at home and Wisconsin and Illinois on the road in a three game stretch, the three highest rated teams in the Big Ten in the NET.