PISCATAWAY, NJ — If Indiana is going to make a special run at this year’s NCAA tournament, they must learn from tough games like tonight.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Indiana (7-1, 0-1 B1G) decided 63-48 against Rutgers (6-2, 1-0). The Scarlet Knights’ suffocating defenses and their unrelenting recoil, led by Caleb McConnells 10, drove the home team’s victory.
The deafening atmosphere matched an intense Big Ten game between an undefeated opponent and a burgeoning Rutgers team emerging from back-to-back NCAA tournaments.
We learned that before the game Jalen HoodSchifino, Anthony Leal and Logan Duncomb were all headed for Indiana. That report For Hood-Schifino, it was “back strain” that kept him out of today’s competition. Leal’s injury was an ankle and Duncomb was absent due to illness.
In the meantime, Paul Mulcahy returned for Rutgers after missing the last four games. Mulcahy didn’t start, but he came off the bench.
Trey Galloway drew the start for Indiana in place of JHS, and Galloway’s defensive intensity made itself felt in the early days. He drew multiple charges and the Scarlet Knights accumulated five team fouls before the first media timeout. Two of those five fouls occurred on Rutgers’ only preseason All-Big Ten member. Cliff Omoruyi. He had to be on the bench for the rest of the first half.
Mueller Kopp was Indiana’s only source of attack in the early days. He scored 11 of IU’s first 13 points and accumulated his second-highest score as a Hoosier in the game, losing 21. That total was only surpassed by his 28 at Syracuse last season.
No Hoosier scored a field goal outside of Kopp in the first 8+ minutes of the game until Malik Renau delivered in paint. The Hoosiers looked sluggish for the most part in the first half, with the exception of Kopp, who finished the first half with 13 points.
IU’s defense and Omoruyis’ extended spell on the bench kept the Hoosiers in the game. However, IU’s rebound served as their Achilles’ heel all night. Rutgers, passed by Temple in the Scarlet Knights’ loss to the Owls on November 18, destroyed IU on the glass, even without Omoruyi. Rutgers overtook Indiana 22-11 in the first 13 minutes of the game, and the gap didn’t narrow all that much for the duration of the contest.
Caleb McConnell, Anyone who only grabs five rebounds per game on average had eight in the first half. The Scarlet Knights had a 28:18 lead on the boards at the break.
Indiana’s best run of the game came after halftime as IU took their first lead since very early in the first half. Kopp’s three bound it, and Xavier Johnsons Korb put Indiana in front on the left with 13:56.
Enter Derek Simpson. Rutgers freshman point guard, taking over for the late Geo Baker, scored nine straight points to not only give the Scarlet Knights the lead but put them well ahead of the Hoosiers.
Those points from Simpson led to a 17-0 run that increased Rutgers’ lead to 15 points. Indiana was never threatened again. IU reduced the lead to single figures, but the Scarlet Knights used the free throw line and intense defense to defeat Indiana.
IU’s next regular season game is Wednesday night at home against Nebraska, back at Assembly Hall. Nebraska plays No. 7 Creighton on Sunday.
Featured Image: Rutgers Basketball