There were mixed emotions in the IU locker room following Wednesday’s blowout loss to Purdue.
Anger. Frustration. The feeling of just wanting to get back out on the court among them.
For the first time all season, the Hoosiers have lost two consecutive games. They’ll look to avoid losing three consecutive contests Saturday at 3:15 p.m. at Assembly Hall against Rutgers (10-12, 2-6).
IU (15-6, 5-3) has moved on from the one-sided loss to Purdue, but it hasn’t forgotten it. Now that the loss in the review mirror, the team is looking to be driven by it.
“I think it gives some motivation because you never want to lose like that again,” sophomore guard Stanford Robinson said. “Once you take an L like that, it just motivates you to get back in the lab and figure out what you did wrong and try to fix it so it won’t happen again.”
Added junior guard Nick Zeisloft: “You want to get back on the court and get things right.”
Part of the process of getting things right is making things simple, IU Coach Tom Crean said.
IU uses an offense dependent on movement, a principle Crean said IU hasn’t held true to in losses this season.
The offense’s goal is to constantly be moving the ball to create open shots. That being said, everyone on the floor needs to be making hard, sharp cuts in order to create space to get open.
“We’ve got to be focused on what we do well,” Crean said. “We have to be really focused on moving the ball quickly; our transition defense has got to improve, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and there’s got to be more urgency in that.”
A home game against Rutgers gives IU an opportunity to regain that focus.
The Scarlet Knights stand as one of the worst teams in the Big Ten in most statistical categories including last-place rankings in scoring, field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and scoring margin.
Their last two losses have come by a combined 48 points, and thanks to a snowstorm, will be playing on short rest after having to play Michigan State on Thursday night instead of Tuesday as scheduled.
Regardless, Crean said he expects Rutgers to be just as dangerous, speaking highly of Coach Eddie Jordan’s system even when faced with multiple injuries to key rotation players this season.
IU, still vulnerable in the post, will be tasked with defending 6-foot-9 forward Kadeem Jack, who Crean compared to Maryland’s Dez Wells.
Jack is Rutgers’ leading rebounder and second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game behind Myles Mack who averages 14 per game. The next-highest scorer is Bishop Daniels who averages 7.9 per game.
“They are a rhythm team, and when they are in rhythm they are pretty good,” Crean said. “I think our job is to make sure we don’t let them get in rhythm.”
But while IU will look to keep out of rhythm, the Hoosiers will be trying to get their own rhythm back.
That would require IU’s shooters to rediscover their strokes and for the defense to find some sort of consistency again.
The solution may just be IU’s shooters finding their stroke back. But that’ll only pay off if the defense finds a way to buckle down and get hold the Scarlet Knights in check to avoid losing three consecutive games for the first time in nearly 11 months.
“We’re at our best when we’re getting stops and rebounds and running out and just moving the ball,” Zeisloft said. “The ball didn’t move as much as it needed to up there at Purdue. We definitely emphasized that yesterday. We’ll definitely have to carry that out tomorrow to get the W.”