Frustration is mounting in Assembly Hall.
Midway through an IU 69-49 loss to Michigan last Friday, senior forward Juwan Morgan earned a bucket and a foul call.
Instead of his normally enthusiastic response, Morgan spiked the ball in frustration after it floated through the hoop and down toward the court.
It’s been that kind of month for the Hoosiers, who have now lost six straight Big Ten games.
Wednesday’s contest against Rutgers is IU’s closest thing to an easy matchup the rest of the season for a team in dire need of a victory.
Here are three things to know about the game:
1. While IU has no confidence, Rutgers has plenty
For the first time in their short Big Ten history, Rutgers earned back-to-back conference wins last week when they took down both Nebraska and Penn State.
This isn’t to say everything has been bright and sunny in Piscataway, New Jersey, as coach Steve Pikiell’s Rutgers team has also been routed by Purdue and Minnesota this month.
But with things trending in the right direction, the Scarlet Knights should have a mental edge entering Wednesday’s game.
After the Michigan loss, IU Head Coach Archie Miller said that hard work and persistence are key for the team to get its confidence back. For now, the Hoosiers have to take everything one game at a time.
"For us right now, it's our next opportunity," Miller said. "That's what we worry about right now, Rutgers.”
2. Searching for offense? Enter Geo Baker
While sophomore guard Geo Baker is not Rutgers’ leading scorer — that honor belongs to junior forward Eugene Omoruyi — he is the offensive catalyst for this team.
Averaging 13.5 points, 4.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game, Baker can stuff the scorer’s sheet in bunches.
“With the ball in his hands, he really knows how to play,” Pikiell said at Big Ten Media Day in October. “He's got a little swagger about him. He's showing great signs of being a good leader. I really like our leadership moving forward here.”
If the Hoosiers hope to earn their first victory in over a month, they’ll need to keep Baker in check.
3. Hoosiers’ season reaching a breaking point
After a 12-2 start, Miller said his team is a shell of itself midway through the season.
To boot, things don’t get any easier for the Hoosiers. After Rutgers, IU plays at No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday before home games against Iowa and Ohio State. An away game against a surging Minnesota team and a home contest versus No. 17 Purdue follow.
Point being, the Hoosiers' schedule does them no favors.
Miller’s second season in Bloomington has gone from optimistic to disastrous in a matter of weeks.
A win over Rutgers on Wednesday won’t cure all ills, but it would give IU some semblance of confidence heading into the home stretch of Big Ten play.
“We've just got to find a way to regroup, and one win really helps that,” Miller said. “One win would really help a lot of things.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Steve Pikiell’s name. The IDS regrets this error.
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