Analysis: Rutgers good for momentum

One down, three to go. Indiana got a much-needed decisive victory over Rutgers on Sunday, 84-54, and now moves on to its next challenge: A Wednesday road game at Evanston, Ill. against Northwestern.

There were plenty of questions lined up for the Indiana basketball team as it made its way to New Jersey for Sunday’s game at Rutgers.

Some of those questions included:

Could the Hoosiers bounce back from a disappointing home loss to rival Purdue on Thursday?

Could Indiana go on the road and beat a team like Rutgers that it had struggled against just a few weeks ago at home?

Could IU use Rutgers as a springboard into the stretch run of the schedule, a run where IU needs to win at least three of its last four games to feel comfortable moving forward?

The answers: Yes, Yes and Yes.

It wasn’t simply that Indiana beat Rutgers on Sunday afternoon but rather that the Hoosiers were able to go on the road and dismantle an inferior opponent.

When you’re playing a team that has lost 10 games in a row in conference and hasn’t won since Jan. 11, you don’t want to let them hang around and feel any kind of hope whatsoever.

You want to get them down, step on their throat and make it clear there is no way that you’re going to be their upset special on this day.

IU’s 84-54 victory accomplished just that.

While it may have just been Rutgers, the reality is that IU has struggled against teams of that ilk before. And needing at least three wins in the final four games, this was a game that was really needed for that springboard into Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State.

Mission accomplished.

Now it’s off to the next challenge, the Big Ten road finale on Wednesday night in Evanston against a Northwestern team that has won three games in a row.

Northwestern is playing with a great deal of confidence but the reality is, that barring a deep Big Ten Tournament run, the Wildcats are likely just playing for pride.

And Indiana needs a repeat performance of Sunday’s game at Rutgers.

It needs Hanner Mosquera-Perea to continue to be active on both ends of the floor. It needs James Blackmon Jr, Robert Johnson, Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft in particular to be able to knock down shots from the perimeter. It needs Troy Williams to play within himself and get to the rim. It needs to cut down on the turnovers and play hard-nosed defense, too.

It needs to do the things it did on the road Sunday when the Hoosiers packed their lunch boxes, went on a business trip and took care of business.

That needs to be the approach Wednesday at Evanston, too.

If Indiana could leave Northwestern with 10 Big Ten victories with two games to play, that would be a huge momentum boost heading into a pair of home games against Iowa and Michigan State.

But first things first. Indiana needs to find a way to dispose of the Wildcats and then think about finishing strong at home.


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