No. 10 Indiana men’s basketball needed someone to step up against Rutgers on Saturday.
With eight minutes left, the Hoosiers were reeling from a 17-point Scarlet Knight run. They were out of sorts. Nobody took charge and for the first time all season, it was too steep a climb to manage in a 63-48 loss.
Indiana started sluggish and clumsy against Rutgers and never improved, shooting just 30% and 6-for-25 from 3-point range. Its losing streak to Rutgers is now six games.
“We just got out-toughed tonight,” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game. “From the beginning to the end.”
A nine-point run set Indiana up with a lead midway through the second half. For the first time all game, Indiana had the momentum and was in the driver’s seat, but it didn’t last.
Rutgers freshman guard Derek Simpson took over for the Scarlet Knights. After a 3-pointer put Rutgers back in the lead, Simpson ripped off a personal 10-0 run amid Rutgers’ game-shifting 17-0 streak. Indiana never clawed back in.
All 14 of Simpson’s points came in the second half.
Rutgers crashed the boards well, outrebounding Indiana 47-33. It was especially prolific on the offensive glass, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds early on and 17 total.
“I thought that was the difference in the ballgame,” Woodson said. “That was the cushion that they needed because from an offensive standpoint, even though we missed shots, they weren’t running off anywhere. Our defense was decent. It was just the extra opportunities for them.”
Indiana played without freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who was dealing with back tightness in the pregame warmup. His absence loomed large for the Hoosiers. Senior guard Xavier Johnson played poorly, turning the ball over six times and making two of his 11 field goal attempts.
With Hood-Schifino absent, Indiana had no one else to reliably handle the ball. Junior guard Trey Galloway started in his place but went scoreless in 30 minutes.
Three days ago, Galloway and Hood-Schifino spurred Indiana to victory over the No. 18 University of North Carolina with a combined 25 points. On Saturday, they were invisible on the scoresheet and emblematic of Indiana’s failure.
“My theme has always just been next man up,” Woodson said. “We just didn’t have it tonight.”
One other stat showed the futility of Indiana’s trip to Piscataway, New Jersey — for the first time in his 101-game career, senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis fouled out. Jackson-Davis, who recorded the 35th double-double of his career with a 13-point, 10-rebound performance, struggled mightily while Rutgers double-and triple-teamed him in the post.
“I’m used to doubles, but they were really honing in,” Jackson-Davis said. “They were sending two guys and then they had one at the rim. I think I rushed things. A few turnovers, but at the same time shots just weren’t falling for us.”
Indiana’s lone bright spot was senior forward Miller Kopp, who scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including a career-high five makes from deep. Kopp only took three shots in his last two games but found his stroke early for the Hoosiers.
“I was just trying to shoot the ball when I was open and make the right play,” Kopp said. “As a team, we have to get better offensively.”
But his style of play as a mostly immobile 3-point shooter on offense couldn’t provide Indiana with the spark it needed.
In the aftermath of Indiana’s convincing win over North Carolina, Jackson-Davis was asked to dream about Indiana’s potential and what it is capable of this season.
His answer was concise and pointed.
“What we're capable of is playing our next game, which is at Rutgers,” Jackson-Davis said.
Yet on Saturday, Indiana was outplayed for nearly 40 minutes. If it was capable of playing, it was hardly capable of winning.
Indiana will return home for its next game, a second Big Ten Conference matchup against Nebraska at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.