Game Analysis: IU 72, Rutgers 64

Indiana stepped on defense late in the game and hit all its crucial free throws in the final 2 minutes. Those were the good things for IU. Digging a hole against a team on a five-game B1G losing streak was problematic. Here is a complete look back at Indiana-Rutgers.

Here is an analysis of Saturday’s 72-64 Indiana victory over Rutgers, a win that lifted the Hoosiers into a multi-team tie for second place in the Big Ten with a 6-3 record. As of this writing IU is tied with Maryland, Michigan and Ohio State, all at 6-3, two games back of Wisconsin in the loss column. But if Purdue beats Northwestern today, it could be a five-way tie. This analysis is a regular part of our coverage of Indiana basketball this season.

WHAT LOOKED GOOD:Indiana’s defensive effort came up big when it needed to down the stretch. IU picked up stops on seven of Rutgers’ final 10 possessions which was a big key. To that point in the game, Rutgers had been able to consistently knock down shots and hang close. Rutgers had a seven point lead midway through the second half and still led by one with 6:50 remaining. … Indiana also did a nice job from the free throw line in a clutch situation. In the final two minutes plus, the Hoosiers made all eight of their foul shots. James Blackmon Jr., Yogi Ferrell, Rob Johnson and Nick Zeisloft all made two free throws each in that stretch. IU hit 14-of-19 free throws for the game but made them when it mattered the most. … IU was 8-if-19 from 3-point range for the game but made four of its last six from beyond the arc. Nick Zeisloft gave the Hoosiers a big spark from distance with a pair of 3-pointers in the final 7 minutes. … Indiana had a rebounding edge again in Big Ten play as it outrebounded Rutgers 34-26.

WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:Indiana struggled to find any kind of rhythm early and simply was allowing Rutgers to hang around. IU’s defense at times in the first half was letting Rutgers get too good of looks from the field. That obviously improved late but it was a problem early. Indiana didn’t seem to have an answer for Rutgers senior guard Myles Mack. Mack, who averages 14 points per game, led the Scarlet Knights with 24 against the Hoosiers. He knocked down four 3-pointers and hit 7-of-13 shots from the field.

FOR STARTERS:Tom Crean shook up his starting lineup on Saturday and went with Stanford Robinson and Nick Zeisloft in place of usual starters Troy Williams and Robert Johnson. The other three starters were Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Collin Hartman. IU’s starting five combined to hit 16-of-36, 6-of-14 3-pointers and 8-of-9 free throw attempts. The starters had 16 of the 34 rebounds and just four of the 11 turnovers.

INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here’s a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Saturday’s win over Rutgers:

1. NICK ZEISLOFT: Zeisloft started for the first time since Nov. 24 against Eastern Washington and quickly picked up two fouls. But he came back and played more in the first half and then hit some big shots down the stretch for IU.His 3-pointer with 6:34 to play gave IU a 59-57 lead and his 3 from the top with 4:19 to play made it 64-57. Zeisloft finished with eight points in 17 minutes and hit his only two 3-point attempts.

2. JAMES BLACKMON JR.:: Blackmon scored 20 or more points for the eighth time this season when he led IU with 20 against Rutgers. He hit 8-of-16 shots from the field and did a particularly good job of driving to the basket. He also had five rebounds and four of those were on the offensive end. When Blackmon scores 20 points or more, IU is now 7-1 this season.

3. Troy WILLIAMS: Williams came off the bench against Rutgers but still managed to play 34 minutes after he was inserted into the lineup when Zeisloft picked up two quick fouls. Williams finished with his third double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He did have four turnovers but 5-of-9 of his shots from the field.

NEXT UP: Indiana (16-6, 6-3) travels to face Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1) on Tuesday in Madison. The Badgers beat Iowa 74-63 on Saturday. It will be the only meeting between Wisconsin and Indiana this season.

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