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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana ruined by mistakes, plays ‘losing basketball’ at Rutgers

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Indiana sophomore center Kel’el Ware had the ball hit his hands, close to securing a defensive rebound inside of 10 minutes to play in the second half Tuesday night against Rutgers. 

But the ball didn’t stick – and seconds later, Rutgers senior forward Aundre Hyatt nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing, giving the Scarlet Knights their biggest lead of the game at 45-38. 

Hyatt’s shot, aided by an offensive rebound from graduate student guard Austin Williams, followed a pair of missed free throws from Indiana senior guard Trey Galloway. It was also a key part of the Scarlet Knights’ 12-0 run, a sequence the Hoosiers couldn’t overcome. 

Above all else, it was a microcosm of Indiana’s night inside Jersey Mike’s Arena, as the Hoosiers (11-5, 3-2 Big Ten) suffered a 66-57 loss to the Scarlet Knights (9-5, 1-3 Big Ten) in Piscataway, New Jersey. 

Rutgers secured 19 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s eight. The Scarlet Knights outrebounded the Hoosiers 50-41 overall. 

Indiana shot just 40% from the field, including 33% in the second half, and 27% from 3-point range, with only a 25% clip in the second half. 

Both teams were turnover prone, as the Hoosiers lost the ball 18 times to the Scarlet Knights’ 15, but Rutgers scored 18 points off giveaways while Indiana netted just 9 points. 

Rebounding, 3-point shooting and turnovers are some of the biggest pillars in playing winning basketball. 

Indiana didn’t do a good job in any of them Tuesday night – and head coach Mike Woodson feels the 9-point margin of defeat is better than it should’ve been considering his team’s struggles in those areas. 

“Missed a lot of wide-open 3s – taking 3s is what it is, but you’ve got to make them,” Woodson said postgame. “We didn’t make them. The turnovers and offensive rebounds, I’m surprised we were even that close, when you look at the stat sheet.” 

The Hoosiers’ struggles from downtown translated to the free throw line, where they went just 4-of-15, or 26.7%. Indiana’s previous low in the last decade was a 38.9% clip against Purdue on Jan. 19, 2019. 

Indiana entered the day tied with Rutgers as the Big Ten’s worst free throw-shooting team with a percentage of just 66.7% – but this is a new low, and something that can’t continue if the Hoosiers hope to contend in the conference. 

“If I had a magic pill that I could give them about making free throws, I would,” Woodson said. “It’s all mental ... They’re free. Punish them for fouling you. We didn’t do that tonight. That’s unacceptable. We’ve got to get better at making free throws. You’re not going to beat teams in the Big Ten – you're just not.” 

Indiana’s rebounding woes are merely a continuation from its 71-65 victory over Ohio State on Jan. 6, during which the Buckeyes pulled down 49 rebounds to the Hoosiers’ 27. 

In the second half of Indiana’s loss to Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights grabbed 10 offensive rebounds alone while the Hoosiers secured just 17 defensive rebounds. Rutgers capitalized with 8 second-chance points to Indiana’s 1, particularly critical in a 9-point game. 

Rebounding was a major concern against Ohio State, but Indiana’s victory helped quell some concern, if only just. This time around, there’s no such band aid, and there’s a chance the blood may keep gushing throughout conference play if the Hoosiers can’t find a solution on the glass. 

“You say, ‘How in the hell can you win a game like?’” Woodson said Tuesday, referencing the Ohio State game. “But it was the other areas where we were pretty good at. You’re not going to do that with most teams in the Big Ten. It’s something we’ve got to clean up because it’s been a problem for our ball club.” 

Rutgers was the Big Ten’s last winless team in conference play entering the day and had taken just one victory in its previous four games. 

The Scarlet Knights didn’t play exceedingly well – they shot a worse clip than Indiana from both the field and beyond the arc, connecting at rates of 32.3% and 22.7%, respectively. They also had 15 turnovers and shot 67.9% from the foul stripe, nearly matching their season average. 

But on Tuesday night, Rutgers didn’t have to do anything extra. Indiana – whether it be struggles from the free throw line, beyond the arc, rebounding or turnovers – simply made too many mistakes to walk away victorious. 

“Missed free throws, 19 offensive rebounds, terrible from the 3-point line and I don’t know how many turnovers we had – 18 turnovers,” Woodson said. “That’s all losing basketball, and I’ve got to fix it.” 

Indiana’s now just 1-2 in true road games, with its lone victory coming Dec. 5 against Michigan. The Hoosiers are 3-4 overall away from Assembly Hall, losing each of their past three games. 

With a lackluster nonconference resume featuring just one win over a Power 5 opponent, Indiana needs a strong Big Ten record to make its third straight NCAA Tournament. 

Now sitting at 3-2 in conference play, the Hoosiers still have a chance to accomplish such a feat, but will have to grow more consistent and stop beating themselves when facing life on the road in the Big Ten. 

“We’ve just got to be more solid,” Woodson said. “Like we play at home, that’s how we’ve got to play on the road. I’ve got to get us to that point.” 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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