What an awful basketball game.
Rutgers won, but don’t get me wrong, it didn’t play all that well. Indiana was just worse.
Things got off to a rocky start with Rutgers jumping out to an early 7-2 lead, holding Indiana to just one field goal in the first four minutes of the game. But then Indiana found its rhythm on offense and built a 20-12 lead with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
And then Mike Woodson opted for another lineup of mostly backups and all momentum was lost. The Hoosiers had their first - but not last - scoring drought at this point and stumbled over the finish line to end the half with just nine points in the final ten minutes.
However ugly things looked, Indiana went into halftime trailing by just 3 and easily could have pulled itself back into the game. Then Xavier Johnson got ejected for hitting Antwone Woolfolk in the nuts when Woolfolk set a screen.
Things went off the rails from there. Lineup chaos, more turnovers, more scoring droughts. Rutgers kept missing shots, but Indiana appeared determined to lose this game and couldn’t even cash in at the free throw line.
Here’s Three Things we learned:
Johnson had a worse game tonight than he did against Nebraska. We already know that Indiana simply cannot afford to have that happen.
Before hitting a runner in the early minutes of the second half, Johnson was once again scoreless with four turnovers in the first half. He appeared to be hesitating every time he picked up his dribble, something that the no. 13 defense in the country made him pay for.
There’s also really no excuse for the play that got him ejected.
It’ll be interesting to see how Woodson addresses this with his senior point guard. This was a winnable game if he could have even played a below average second half and helped run the offense the way he is capable of.
And he is capable of it. He did it Saturday to perfection. He’s done it multiple times in his seasons with Indiana. But he’s going to need to do it regularly if Indiana is going to be competitive this year.
Indiana is not going to win many games when it turns the ball over more than fifteen times. This was the case against Nebraska and it was the case again tonight.
I try not to be too hard on individual players, but this is another thing that Johnson bears a lot of responsibility for. The super senior point guard is on the floor to bring composure and stability. When he struggles, the entire team is going to struggle.
Rutgers is an elite defensive team, second nationally in non-steal turnovers forced entering tonight. Some of this could have been expected from Indiana’s younger players, but again, this is why you have Johnson on the roster.
As an elite defense, they also had probably the deepest bag of tricks that Indiana’s seen all year. They sent doubles at different times on Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau, forcing them to turn the ball over two and three times, respectively.
At the end of the day, each of the five starters had two or more turnovers. That’s not going to cut it, no matter how good the opponent is at forcing turnovers. Indiana needs more discipline from its experienced backcourt going forward.
Everything Else That Happened
Going bulleted list here to cover just how bizarre this game was in so many ways:
- Indiana, a 68.3% free throw shooting team went 4-15 from the line today. It’s inexplicable and probably won’t happen again. Not going to worry about it until it does.
- It isn’t the first time that Indiana has struggled from deep, but its 7-26 performance from 3-point range definitely stands out after the last four games, when its worst game still saw the Hoosiers hit over 37% of their attempts.
- Rutgers somehow still shot worse than Indiana tonight, including on 3-pointers, going 5-22 from behind the arc and hitting just 32.3% of its field goals.
- Rutgers had five more points at the free throw line than Indiana had attempts.
- Losing like that only dropped Indiana one spot in Kenpom,
- Indiana scored nine more points in Jersey Mike’s Arena did this year with a worse offense and against a better defense than the matchup last year had.
- There was a state of emergency in New Jersey because of a flood warning along the coast. The game went on. Weird vibe to a weird game.