A month after narrowly falling to the Scarlet Knights at home, the IU men’s basketball team will look for redemption against Rutgers at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Piscataway, New Jersey.
This is only the 12th time these two teams have played, and the Hoosiers lead the overall series 7-4, but they haven’t beaten the Scarlet Knights since 2019.
“Rutgers is a very tough-minded group,” IU head coach Archie Miller said at a press conference Tuesday. “I think in playing them the first time, we didn't play well on either end of the floor, but we got really hit hard in transition.”
IU had double-digit turnovers in the second half against Rutgers in January. Miller said Rutgers’ ability to convert off of turnovers is concerning and gave them the 74-70 victory.
Miller attributed much of Rutgers’ defense success to junior center Myles Johnson, who leads Rutgers with 8.5 rebounds per game. Miller said Johnson is the best defender in the Big Ten because of his ability to protect the rim, create turnovers and block shots.
But the Hoosiers also struggled to get by the Rutgers guards on offense.
“There's no question about it, the physicality of their guards and their ability to disrupt, their ability to stay in front, their ability to blow through screens was really a big problem in the game,” Miller said. “Our physicality on offense, as much as defense, was a problem.”
The biggest key for the Hoosiers will be their guard play, Miller said. The guards can’t turn the ball over on entry passes or in the post because Miller wants to limit turnovers to less than 10. He also said he wants to see his guards make more penetration plays because that wasn’t something they did against Rutgers the first time.
But to be efficient on offense, the Hoosiers’ defensive effort will have to translate to production on the offensive side.
Rutgers guards Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. caused problems for IU in January, combining for 34 points. The Hoosiers also gave up 30 points in the paint.
“We're gonna have to do a much better job of defending the paint than we did in the first game
as we play him here this second time,” Miller said.
In a matchup where sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis — who is averaging 20 points a game — couldn’t get going, the key for the Hoosiers was taking care of the ball.
Going into its second game against Rutgers, IU will have to look to limit turnovers and opportunities for Rutgers to convert those mistakes into points.
“In my opinion, turnovers is the name of the game,” Miller said.