And it’s not just that the Hoosiers have lost the last two games, it’s how they have lost those games. The level of competitiveness in the last two games simply hasn’t been where it had been when the Hoosiers had five of their first six in conference.
The Hoosiers sound focused. And they need to be. Indiana is 12-1 at home this season including a 3-0 mark at home.
Stanford Robinson said Friday he thinks the Purdue game in particular provided some extra motivation moving forward.
“I think there is some motivation there because you never want to lose like that,’’ Robinson said. “When you take an ‘L’ like that it motivates you to get back in the lab and find out what went wrong and try to fix it so it won’t happen again.’’
Now the Hoosiers are one of seven B1G teams with three conference losses. Three of those teams are 6-3, three are 5-3 and one is 4-3. IU is 15-6 overall and 5-3 in conference.
Next up is Rutgers, a team that is 10-12 overall and 2-7 in conference play. But one of those two conference victories was a 67-62 win at home against Wisconsin. The Badgers are 6-1 with that being their only loss. The Badgers didn’t have Frank Kaminsky in that game but still, it was a big win for the Scarlet Knights regardless.
Rutgers ranks 333rd in the nation in scoring at 58.9 points per game and 321st in shooting percentage at 39.4 percent. IU is 13th in the nation at 80.3 points per game and 26th in shooting percentage at 47.9 percent.
Rutgers will be looking for its first Big Ten road victory. The Scarlet Knights are 0-4 on the road in B1G play, losing to Nebraska by 16, Maryland by 8, Minnesota by 9 and most recently, Penn State by 28.
In fact, Rutgers’ last two Big Ten games were a 28-point loss to Penn State last weekend and a 20-point home loss to Michigan State on Thursday. That game was postponed from Tuesday because of weather so Rutgers will arrive in Bloomington on short rest.
IU coach Tom Crean spoke highly Friday of some of the pieces that Rutgers has in its lineup, guys like guards Bishop Daniels and Myles Mack and forward Kadeem Jack. He said Rutgers is good around the rim and does a nice job rebounding the ball.
But Crean’s basic message Friday was that the Hoosiers need to focus on themselves right now and just continue to get better.
“What we have to do is we have to be really focused on what we do well,’’ Crean said. “We have to be really focused on moving the ball. Our transition defense has got to be better, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. There has to be more of an urgency to that. Certainly we have to take care of the ball better and make it simpler. And make our plays simpler and not try to make plays that aren’t there.
“We can play better on both sides of the ball and we will. J.D. (Campbell) pointed out that we have played more road games than anyone in the Big Ten at this point. You just have to continue to move forward in everything that you do in this league. When you win you’ve got to learn for that and when you lose you’ve got to learn from that, too.
Crean said the Hoosiers have been working hard in practice but now they need to do a better job of carrying things over to the games.
Our mindset is … we’re working fine,’’ Crean said. “And we’ve just got to carry it out to the games a little bit better as we have been as recently as last week and just play that way. It’s not as much about who you’re playing right now as it is doing the things that make you be successful. If you can do that you’ve got a good psychological edge.
Indiana will face Rutgers for just the second time in school history when they host the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. The only other meeting was in December of 1980 when the Hoosiers won 55-50.