The Indiana basketball program heads on the road looking to extend a two game winning streak, this time taking on Rutgers.
On Wednesday, Indiana basketball will look to do something only five Big Ten teams have done this season; win on the road in a conference game. Yes, you read that right. Thus far, home teams in Big Ten conference games are 32-5 on the season and most of those 32 wins haven’t even been that close.
While many people who haven’t been paying attention to college basketball may think this is an easy win against ‘Rutgers’, would be wrong. The Scarlet Knights are anything but your father’s Rutgers teams of the past, and were a win against Illinois away this weekend to most likely being ranked headed into this matchup.
Sitting at 12-4 on the season, Rutgers has wins over No. 20 Penn State, No. 22 Seton Hall, and Wisconsin, some of the better wins in the conference.
While Rutgers is still very deep, nine players seeing at least 11 minutes of action, Geo Baker remains out with a broken thumb and has missed the past three games. Though he is the second leading scorer (11.4 ppg), his 4.0 assists per game that Rutgers no longer has, has hurt them even more. A team that struggles to make shots, 318th in the NCAA at 29.8 percent from deep, not having a ball handler and someone who can make plays for others has really hurt them.
Someone who the Scarlet Knights have relied on even more now is Ron Harper Jr. The sophomore wing has a team-high 12.2 points per game and has raised that number to just over 14 a game since Baker has been out of the lineup. While he is capable of stretching the floor, five games with at least two made threes, he also six games without a make, so the inconsistencies are there.
Outside of those two, there is a trio of guys who average at least nine points per game. Myles Johnson leads that crew and while still raw offensively, his ability to rebound the ball and clean up misses is great for a relatively subpar shooting team. With seven double-digit rebound games, Johnson also has four double-doubles and seven games with at least 10 points. His ability to disrupt shots (1.6 bpg) will be crucial against the likes of Joey Brunk and Trayce Jackson-Davis.
For Akwasi Yeboah and Jacob Young, both transfers, their versatility is much-needed to a team that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of it. Yeboah is a hybrid forward who is averaging 9.1 points on 37.2 percent from deep and brings that ability to stretch the floor, keeping the defense honest. With Young, his ability to create shots for himself is something the Scarlet Knights lost when Baker went out. Averaging 17 points on 54.3 percent from the field in the last four games, he has been a much-needed offensive spark.
Overall, Rutgers excels on defense, ranking 13th in the NCAA allowing just 59.4 points per game and 8th in opponents shooting percentage, at just 36.7 percent from the field.
The Hoosiers made a change to the starting lineup against OSU and it worked, but will it remain consistent? IU is 0-2 on the road in the Big Ten, both being blowouts; will they be able to change it up? Both deep front courts, whoever wins the rebounding battle will win the game. Hoosiers need to keep Rutgers from getting comfortable in the paint – 62 percent of FGA on the season in the paint. Indiana can’t have another prolonged segment without scoring the ball as this will be a limited possession game.
With seven different players leading them in scoring in a game this year and six players averaging over seven points a game, who will they go to if they need a big shot? With no Geo Baker (thumb), they have had two out of the three games turn in less than 10 assists as a team. Shooting just 29.8 percent from three, who will step up and make shots to stretch the floor? Rutgers guards like to get into the face of its opponent, will they be able to rattle IU’s backcourt?
Trayce Jackson-Davis (14.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Devonte Green (12.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 39.1% 3pt), Justin Smith (11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Al Durham (10.8 ppg, 2.7 apg), Rob Phinisee (7.1 ppg, 2.8 apg)
Ron Harper Jr (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Myles Johnson (9.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Akwasi Yeboah (9.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Jacob Young (9.0 ppg 2.9 rpg)