Is this the end of the line? Or will IU end its losing streak to Rutgers?
The regular season is over and IU is headed up the road to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament. That means it’s time to turn our attention from one Hoosier losing streak to another.
- Tired: Nine-game skid against Purdue
- Wired: Three-game skid against Rutgers
All told, the Scarlet Knights have won five of the seven meetings against IU during the Archie Miller era, with Rutgers’ first victory in series history coming in the 2018 conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. I remember IU also got stuck with the Knicks locker room for that game. Bad vibes, man. Just really bad vibes all around.
Anyway, because it’s the Big Ten Tournament and you are an Indiana supporter, you know not to expect much this week. The Hoosiers are doomed to failure in this event. It’s just what they do. In fact, across the first 22 years of the conference tournament, IU has beaten a higher-ranked seed only four times.
No. 10 Indiana and No. 7 Rutgers tip off at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Scarlet Knights appear to be safely in the NCAA Tournament field and on track to play their first March Madness game since 1991 later this month. Good for Rutgers.
But Steve Pikiell’s crew hasn’t exactly been great over the past month, going just 4-4 to close the season with wins over Minnesota (twice), Northwestern and IU. Speaking of the Hoosiers, Rutgers has seen Indiana at its worst this season — lazy and lackadaisical in a sleepy, post-Iowa matinee in January, and punchless and full of fizzle in a one-sided result last month. No, this series hasn’t gone well for IU of late.
Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. are two of the reasons why. The best version of Baker always shows up against Indiana, and he’s averaging 19.5 points and shooting 50% (10-for-20) from beyond the arc through the first two meetings this winter. Harper, meanwhile, is pulling a double-double of 17.5 points and 10.0 rebounds across both IU matchups.
Offensively, it’s been a struggle down the stretch. Rutgers has produced more than a point per possession against only one of its past six opponents (Indiana), while producing an effective field goal percentage of 50% or better only twice (Indiana, Minnesota).
Guard Jacob Young was outstanding in the regular season finale, posting 23 points, dishing seven assists and recording four steals in an overtime win over the Golden Gophers. Young has scored in double figures a team-best 20 times, including seven straight games to end the season. He leads the Big Ten in steals (1.8 per game) and ranks ninth in field goal percentage (47.3%) and 14th in scoring (14.5 ppg).
Things to watch
We’ll start with the injury report once again, as IU continues to monitor the availability of both Armaan Franklin and Race Thompson. Franklin has been nursing a foot injury since halftime of the last Rutgers game on Feb. 24., and while he’s done some light work behind the scenes over the past week, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be cleared to play on Thursday. Thompson, it seems, is feeling the wear and tear of the season all over his body. After taking a couple shots to the face in recent weeks, he tweaked an ankle against Purdue over the weekend. Judging by Miller’s comments on Wednesday afternoon, Thompson will likely try to play, but how effective and physical will he be?
Speaking of physicality, one of IU’s problems in this matchup has been Rutgers’ ability to push the Hoosiers around. They’ve done so repeatedly. Myles Johnson is a handful defensively underneath the basket, and the Scarlet Knights’ guards have given their IU counterparts fits with their physical play on both ends of the floor. The Hoosiers — and the guards, specifically — are going to need to be aggressive here and be willing to engage in a grind.
Who shoots better?
It’s Lucas Oil Stadium, so the sightlines aren’t likely to be good for shooters — and neither of these teams is all that skilled at shooting from distance, in the first place. Over their last 10 games, the Scarlet Knights are shooting 26.9% from long range, which ranks 335th nationally in that span. Then again, Rutgers is shooting 38% (19-for-50) from beyond the arc against IU this season.
Points in the paint
Rutgers had little trouble with IU’s defensive looks during the first two games, shooting a combined 59% inside the arc against the Hoosiers.
Here’s a stat (again)
In seven career games against Rutgers, Al Durham has not missed a free throw. The senior guard is 21-for-21 at the line entering Thursday’s matchup.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? No. 10 Indiana (12-14, 7-12) vs. No. 7 Rutgers (14-10, 10-10)
Where? Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
When? Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Eastern
Channel? BTN | Brandon Gaudin (p-b-p), Shon Morris (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Rutgers -2