Another Road Loss For Indiana at Rutgers

Tom Brew

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Being on the road seems to bring out the worst in Indiana. It happened again Wednesday night at Rutgers, when the Hoosiers lost 59-50 — and looked bad doing it.

The 50 points scored was Indiana's lowest total of the season. It didn't come as a complete surprise because Rutgers' big, physical lineup is one of the best defensive groups in the country, ranked in the top-15 in several categories. They take away good looks inside, and they did exactly that to Indiana.

For instance, Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis scored a season-low four points on just 2-of-6 shooting. He sat more than he played, logging only 19 minutes. Joey Brunk had 10 points, on 5-of-10 shooting, and none of them were easy.

Rutgers dared Indiana to shoot from the outside and, once again, the Hoosiers couldn't do it. Indiana was just 2-for-19 shooting from long range and did not make a 3-pointer until junior guard Al Durham hit one with 5:18 to play. They missed their first 14 3-point shots. Overall, the Hoosiers shot 31.7 percent from the field.

This is nothing new, of course. Indiana also has been terrible in true road games so far this season. The Hoosiers lost 84-64 at Wisconsin on Dec. 7 and 75-59 at Maryland on Jan. 4. The final scores were deceiving though, because the Hoosiers were down by at least 30 points at one point in the second half of both games.

That trend continued Wednesday in New Jersey. But this has turned in to good Rutgers team. They are (13-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten,. not bad for a team picked to finish 12th in the league's preseason poll. 

Indiana is also 13-4, and 3-3 in the league. What's similar? Rutgers doesn't lose at home either. The Knights are 12-0 at home and 1-4 elsewhere. Indiana's done the same, losing all three true road games. 

"They are impressive with their effort level, especially in here, they have this place charged up," Indiana coach Archie Miller said afterward. "This is a difficult game. We didn't handle the environment early."

They sure didn't. Rutgers scored the first 12 points, and the Rutger Athletic Center — sold out for the first time all year — was rocking. Indiana has usually struggled when adversity hits on the road, but they did a nice job of bouncing back, and actually took a 22-21 lead, digging in on defense and hold their own in a slugfest. 

But then Indiana went completely cold from the field and couldn't score. They went five minutes without scoring at all, and then another seven minutes with nothing after a Rob Phinisee basket. Spanning halftime, Rutgers went on an 18-2 run. Rutgers' biggest lead was 17 points, and the Hoosiers got no closer to seven points down the stretch.  

"The game is dictated by the team that sets the rules," Miller said. "Rutgers set the rules right at the tap. We had to adjust and fight through it. The game was fast on offense for us. They worked. They pressured. Their big guys did a good job of making things difficult around the rim. We got very few easy ones."

Justin Smith led the Hoosiers with 15 points.