Good free throw shooting and solid defense down the stretch turned out to be the difference in a 72-64 Indiana victory that was much closer than the final score would indicate.
Indiana (16-6, 6-3 Big Ten) snapped a two-game losing streak. Rutgers (10-13, 2-8) lost for the sixth game in a row. Interestingly, the Scarlet Knights last victory was a 67-62 win over Wisconsin. That was Wisconsin’s only conference loss of the season.
IU trailed 57-56 with 6:50 to play following a free throw by Kadeem Mack. Rutgers had led by as many as seven in the second at 52-45 with 11:34 remaining.
At that point, the Hoosiers went on an 8-0 run with Nick Zeisloft hitting a pair of 3-point baskets and James Blackmon Jr. scoring on a drive to the basket. That made it 64-57 at the final media timeout with 3:56 to play.
That’s when Indiana took care of the game from the foul line. The Hoosiers hit all eight free throws in the final 2 minutes and 15 seconds with four different players hitting a pair of shots from the line. Blackmon was first, then Yogi Ferrell, then Robert Johnson and finally Zeisloft.
Blackmon Jr. led IU with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field. That’s the eighth time this season that Blackmon has eclipsed the 20-point mark for the Hoosiers.
Troy Williams didn’t start Saturday but quickly made up for it with his play. He had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
Ferrell also had 14 points for the Hoosiers and extended his streak to 53 consecutive games with at least one 3-point field goal.
As a team, the Hoosiers struggled early from beyond the arc, hitting just four of their first 13 from distance. But IU made four of the last six 3-pointers to close the game.
Indiana is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to Big Ten leader Wisconsin.
Stay tuned today for plenty of coverage from AllHoosiers.com.