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Three Things: Rutgers 74, Indiana 70

Only a fool didn’t see this coming

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports


Let’s just get to it. Here are Three Things:

Well, if that wasn’t the most predictable result of the Archie Miller era

The Iowa win is still on the resume. We checked, and it’s still there. But a home loss to Rutgers — the Scarlet Knights’ first in Bloomington — basically mutes its significance. It also squanders whatever goodwill Indiana was able to cultivate a few days earlier. Just a bad, bad loss. Indiana’s best, most experienced players were terrible and the collective effort was probably as poor as it’s been all season.

While Rutgers dictated the course of play for much of Sunday afternoon, Indiana passively toddled its way through too many stretches. Or, maybe more accurately, IU seemed to pair every prosperous moment with either a breakdown or a mistake. I mean, just look at the box score. The Hoosiers hit 10 (!) of their 16 3-pointers — and yet!

We’ll talk about defense in a moment, but first, the offense deserves a chat. Because it’s butt. Against a Rutgers team that was allowing Big Ten opponents to hit 53.1% of their shots inside the arc, IU went merely 35% (14-for-40) on its 2-point attempts. Terrible! Then there were the turnovers — five of IU’s 12 came on its first six possessions of the second half, squaring with the aggressively middling theme of the day. It was just bad basketball from a team that can’t afford any more of it.

A week and a half ago, we were talking about how Archie Miller can’t beat Purdue. Well, he’s not beating Rutgers enough, either. The Scarlet Knights have won four of the six meetings during the Miller era, if you’re curious. What’s more, these types of efforts have become all too predictable on the heels of big wins. Per ESPN, IU is merely 2-9 during the Miler era in games immediately after a top-25 win. Want to talk about a program identity? There it is.

Defensive regression

It wasn’t the lockdown defensive effort Indiana wanted to author after Thursday’s performance at Iowa. Not even close. You know how Indiana couldn’t get any offense going inside the arc? Well, Rutgers had no problem, shooting 61% on 2-point shots. At times, Steve Pikiell’s group simply drove to the rim at will.

The Scarlet Knights scored at a rate of 1.12 points per possession, posted the third-highest effective field goal percentage (58.5%) by an IU opponent this season and turned their trip to Bloomington into a momentous get-right occasion. Just look at Geo Baker, who had been in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his career this month. Across his past four games, he totaled only 26 points. On Sunday alone, he had 19. Baker always seems to play well against Indiana. In six career games against the Hoosiers, he’s averaging 12 points and shooting 44% from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s defense now ranks 10th in the conference in efficiency, 11th in opponent effective field goal percentage and dead last in opponent 3-point percentage.

Perhaps Lander is developing some confidence

Watching the emergence of IU’s freshmen has been one of the few consistently enjoyable things about following this team. It’s a small thing, but it’s not nothing. It feels like each of them has had a moment (or two, or three) where they’ve flashed this season, whether it was Trey Galloway early in the season, Anthony Leal earlier this month or Jordan Geronimo earlier this week.

On Sunday, it was Khristian Lander’s turn. The freshman matched his total scoring output (six points) from his first eight Big Ten games during his first eight minutes on the floor against Rutgers. His 11 total minutes of run counts as the most action he’s seen in Big Ten play so far, and perhaps he’s starting to figure out what he needs to do to stay out there. If there was any positive from Sunday, it was Lander.