Rutgers cannot find the basket in 65-43 loss to Indiana at home
Knights follow promising Purdue loss with worst shooting night of season, going 26 percent from the field
On Saturday, the Rutgers men's basketball team welcomed No. 3 Purdue to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) and came within 2 points of knocking down the early NCAA Tournament favorites.
Just two days later, the Scarlet Knights (12-14, 2-11) scored a measly 43 points against a middling Indiana team (13-12, 6-7) en route to a 65-43 loss at the RAC.
"Not proud of how we played today," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "Didn't come out with the energy we had, obviously, the other night. Tried to sub guys in, tried to generate some of that (energy). Just got off to that bad start and never could really recover."
After one of the strongest offensive performances by Rutgers all season — a 48-percent shooting affair against the Boilermakers — the Knights met the Hoosiers with a 26-percent mark, their worst of the season.
Somewhat fortunately for Rutgers, it was not as lopsided a loss as it could have been, with Indiana going cold for large stretches of the game, aside from a solid spell to begin the game, especially from deep. The Hoosiers were plagued by similar issues on offense as the Knights, playing relatively sloppy without as drastic a night from the field.
It began about as sluggishly as it would end, with the weak start from Rutgers and the strong start from Indiana coming down to two patterns; the Knights not shooting well and their opponents shooting just well enough.
The Hoosiers' shooting was largely confined to outside the perimeter — where they usually do not like it — and started out making 5 of their first 7 attempts from beyond the arc. Indiana never hit a streak as strong as its first 10 minutes, but the team still shot a respectable 45-percent from 3, better than its 44-percent clip from the free-throw line.
It was the worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten in Indiana coming up against one of the best 3-point shooting defenses in the country in Rutgers, but with the Knights shooting so poorly on the other end, it might have had an effect on its defense, a well-documented issue in the past.
Rutgers began the night shooting 12 percent from the field through its first 16 shots, allowing the visiting Hoosiers to get out to an early double-digit lead.
Though the Knights were never able to regain their shooting form from the previous game against Purdue, they were at least able to keep Indiana somewhat on their level after the early 3-point shooting outburst. Rutgers held the Hoosiers to multiple minutes without scoring, but its offense was never able to crawl back from the rough start.
Freshman guard Geo Baker had the strongest shooting night for the Knights on Monday, collecting 10 points on a 4-of-11 line, but the poor shooting was felt throughout the squad. Junior guard Corey Sanders, who led all players with 31 points against Purdue, went 1-of-11 from the field, while sophomore guard Issa Thiam made 1 of his 6 shots.
"Not really sure," Baker said, when asked about what went wrong with Rutgers' shooting Monday night. "We gotta come out and battle, and I just think that we didn't do that today."
Where the Knights' offense was working was in the rebounding game, as Rutgers once again had the advantage on the boards, a regular occurrence for the Knights this season. Fifth-year senior forward Deshawn Freeman, sophomore forward Matt Bullock and freshman center Mamadou Doucoure carried the burden in that regard, nabbing 10 offensive rebounds between them.
As the team learned versus the Boilermakers, offensive rebounds, and rebounds in general, do not alone win basketball games, but missing 74 percent of your shots is a fast and hard way to lose them.
Rutgers has dipped into the same consistency issues that hurt it earlier in the season, following up season-best games with some of its poorest shooting performances. That trend continued from Saturday to Monday, with the Knights taking one of the best teams in the country to the final minute only to lose by 22 points to a weaker-than-usual Hoosiers team two nights later.
"We've had some games that were tough games, and we haven't followed those up with the right kind of approach," Pikiell said. "I think part of it's young, and part of it is we have some guys out too that are fighters. We really gotta figure that out."
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