We can choose to be upset about this game or we can choose to be positive. I'LL GIVE YOU BOTH ANGLES.
- This team played its best ball in winning time. Rutgers took a 57-56 lead on a free throw with 6:50 remaining and Indiana responded by playing their best sequence on both ends of the court. Two Nick Zeisloft three-pointers were sandwiched around a James Blackmon Jr. layup for a quick 8-0 run fueled by four straight stops on the defensive end. Rutgers would go over four minutes without scoring and wouldn't ever have a chance to play a one-possession game the rest of the way. Indiana put it out of reach by hitting all eight free throws that Rutgers afforded them through intentional fouls.
- The eye test revealed a much better effort despite a lack of results early on. Indiana out-rebounded the Scarlet Knights and generated SIX STEALS on the defensive end, which are the kind of things a size-deficient team have to do to give themselves a fighting chance defensively. And while Rutgers did shoot the ball well all night, they deserve credit for canning some incredibly difficult looks, the kind of looks you live with on defense, but it's certainly deflating to see them go in when this defense struggles mightily to generate stops. The offense worked for good looks in the first half but simply could not get a shot to fall, giving the gameplan a much uglier look than it deserved.
- This team is 6-3 at the turn, forgetting everything else, that is a good thing. The back nine starts off with a doozy in Madison but after that, the schedule lightens up considerably. Indiana has the fewest road games of any team left in the conference and has already taken their trips to East Lansing and Columbus. This team can reach 11 on their home games alone, and manageable road trips to Piscataway and Evanston give Indiana a non-zero chance at 12-13 total wins.
I'M UPSET THIS WAS TERRIBLE
- Rutgers is the 272nd ranked offense in the country and shot an eFG% of 50.9% and scored 1.04 PPP. Rutgers chose to exploit Indiana away from the basket, hitting long jumpshots at an incredibly efficient rate. At one point, they had hit SEVEN OF TEN from the perimeter, the one part of the court Indiana had defended decently this season. Some desperations heaves at the end of the game brought those numbers down but it was a huge reason Rutgers stayed in the game and even lead midway through the second half. Every guard not named Yogi Ferrell is still far too easily beaten off the dribble and the lack of a true rim protector compounds this issue further. Indiana seemed to zone a lot more today and it should, doubtless, be something they do more of going forward.
- Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. should never be off the court at the same time. The lineups with both of them on the bench found their way in the same way my dog will eventually find his way out from underneath a blanket I throw on top of him, but it's neither efficient or fair. Both of these players cause the defense too many headaches to ever bail them out by taking them both off the floor for any stretch of time.
- The league is beginning to adjust to Indiana and it is imperative that the Hoosiers adjust back. The five-out offense is looking less and less effective since its coming out party against Maryland as more and more of it gets put on tape. Part of this is correctable as it just doesn't seem the Hoosiers are taking their off-the-ball movement as seriously as they did against Maryland where it seemed guys rarely stood still. That said, defenses are getting more disruptive on handoffs and sagging off of Troy Williams when he has the ball outside the arc, leaving rim protectors where they can still make life difficult for driving guards. We saw this time and time again against Purdue, as the Boilermakers executed that defensive gameplan with brutal efficiency. Tom Crean has made his living as an offensive mind, so I'll be interested to see what tweaks he makes going forward.