Indiana Basketball: Hoosiers suffer loss to Rutgers in offensive disaster

Jan 9, 2024; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward Malik Reneau (5) drives to the
Jan 9, 2024; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward Malik Reneau (5) drives to the / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Basketball was defeated by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Tuesday evening, 66-57.

Due to an official state of emergency in New Jersey, it was unclear whether or not the Indiana-Rutgers game would be played. Torrential downpours and high winds caused the state to be dark, bleak, and dreary. Indiana’s play on the court wasn’t much different.

After coming off a strong home win against Ohio State, Indiana was looking to build momentum against a Rutgers team that was previously winless in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers hadn’t won at Jersey Mike’s Arena since 2018, and this was perhaps their best chance in years to break that streak. Instead, Mike Woodson’s squad flies back to Bloomington after an uninspiring and deflating loss.

Indiana had an early 20-13 lead, and both the offense and defense seemed to be clicking. Rutgers quickly scored the following six points and ultimately ended the half on a 17-7 run. The Hoosiers had the opportunity to take the final shot of the second half, but Xavier Johnson turned the ball over, which allowed Derek Simpson to hit an impressive three off the window at the buzzer.

To begin the second half, Indiana could get absolutely nothing going on the offensive end. They missed layups, air-balled threes, and turned the ball over frequently. In the first seven minutes of the half, they managed to score only eight points. With 13:10 left to play, Xavier Johnson was assessed a flagrant two-foul and was ejected after a hit below the belt on Rutgers’ Antwone Woolfolk.

Shortly after his ejection, the Scarlet Knights went on a 12-0 to extend their lead to 51-38 with 6:27 left in the ballgame. Despite their struggles, Indiana was still in the game late due to Rutgers’ poor 32.3% overall shooting percentage. A Kel’el Ware three cut the lead to six with 2:22 left, but the Hoosiers were unable to make any more timely shots as they fell by a score of 66-57.

Indiana struggled in essentially every facet of the game. Once again, the Hoosiers were killed on the offensive glass—they surrendered 15 offensive rebounds despite having one of the tallest starting lineups in the nation. They also struggled mightily to take care of the ball, turning it over a whopping 18 times. Rutgers was able to capitalize on these mistakes, scoring 18 points off Indiana turnovers.

The Hoosiers’ shooting was equally abysmal, with an overall field goal percentage of 39.7%. After beginning to heat up from three the past few games, the Hoosiers took a big step back as they went 7/26 (26.9%) from behind the arc. Needing points in a hurry down the stretch, they missed many shots from deep that could’ve given them a chance in the final minutes.

Indiana also had a historically bad night from the free throw line, making just four of their 15 attempts from the charity stripe. They join Antelope Valley as the only two college basketball teams to make four or fewer free throws on 15 or more attempts in the last two seasons. To put this in perspective, Antelope Valley is a part of the NAIA, an association below Division III of the NCAA.

“When you look at the turnovers, the rebounding, the missed free throws, it all piled up,” Mike Woodson said after his team’s dreadful performance.

A common theme throughout the season has been Indiana receiving minimal contributions from their starting backcourt—this was once again the case tonight. Trey Galloway scored eight points on just 4/13 from the field and did not hit one of his four shots from behind the arc. He also missed both of his free throws and committed two turnovers. Before his banishment, Xavier Johnson had just two points, one rebound, and two assists for the Hoosiers. He also did not hit any of his three-point attempts and had five turnovers in just 24 minutes of action.

Kel’el Ware managed to grab 17 total rebounds, one of the lone positives for Indiana. He totaled 13 points on 5-10 shooting and converted on his lone shot from behind the arc. Malik Reneau stuffed the stat sheet, accumulating 13 points, six rebounds, and seven assists on 60% from the field. However, he often struggled to recognize the double-teams that Rutgers threw at him, affecting the overall flow of Indiana’s offense. In his return to New Jersey, Mackenzie Mgbako had an inefficient 13 points on 4-11 overall and 3-8 from three. After a breakout against Ohio State, CJ Gunn had just six points, making two shots on seven attempts.

Tuesday night was one of the worst performances in recent memory for the Hoosiers. Indiana must take better care of the ball, be more effective on the glass, and shoot more efficiently from the field and the line as the tough Big Ten matchups continue. They get their next opportunity at Assembly Hall on Friday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.