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Despite the absence of James Blackmon Jr. and committing a season-high 23 turnovers, Indiana defeats Rutgers 79-72

It wasn't pretty, but Indiana managed to win its Big Ten opener at Rutgers.

Familiar defensive lapses and turnovers plagued Indiana, but somehow it still found a way to win. 

Max Bielfeldt tied his career high with 18 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds to lead the Hoosiers to a 79-72 win over Rutgers Wednesday at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J. Indiana committed a season-high 23 turnovers in the win, exceeding the previous mark of 21 against UNLV in the Maui Invitational. 

"We turned it over way too much," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "Too many of them were unforced, so we've got to get that rectified, but the bottom line is we way found a way to win the game." 

Bielfeldt's play was indicative of how the bench played as a whole in Indiana finding a way to win. 

With starters struggling and accounting for 22 of those 23 turnovers, Indiana (11-3) went to a lineup featuring Bielfeldt, freshman forward O.G. Anunoby, fifth-year forward Ryan Burton, sophomore guard Robert Johnson and fifth-year guard Nick Zeisloft. 

Together, the lineup sparked a 5-0 run and eventually expanded Indiana's lead to 10 with 7:58 remaining in the first half. Overall, Bielfeldt and Indiana's other bench players would account for 37 of IU's 79 points. 

Indiana was without starting guard James Blackmon Jr., who injured his right knee during practice this week. According to a release from the program, the sophmore is being further evaluated to determine the extent of the injury.

As a result, Indiana was without its second-leading scorer. Blackmon Jr. accounted for 15.8 points per game through 13 games this season, and averaged 18.5 points per game in two wins vs. Rutgers (6-8) last season.

Johnson started at the shooting guard spot in Blackmon Jr.'s place and struggled. He finished 0-for-6 from the field with four turnovers and two assists. 

"We played early on like a team that had been off nine days, and we played like a team that was playing without a key guy with James," Crean siad. "When you take out a starter, not to mention one of the more elite guards in the country, and with what he does scoring, it's one thing, but then you take out the impact he has on the other team's defense always accounting for him." 

Hartman had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range and added two rebounds in 29 minutes as a starter. 

Trailing 72-64 with just 1:16 left in regulation, Rutgers senior guard Omari Grier drove the the basket and drew contact as he made the layup, a chance for a 3-point play. However, Indiana's lead would remain at six as he just missed the free throw and Bielfeldt grabbed the defensive rebound. 

Grier finished with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Ferrell led Indiana with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field. Ferrell also finished with seven assists but committed six turnovers in the process. 

Turnovers were also a struggle for other starters. IU junior forward Troy Williams committed seven, while Johnson had five. Together, those three accounted for 18 of the starters' 22 turnovers.

Bielfeldt's effectiveness in 26 minutes was due to freshman center Thomas Bryant struggling with foul trouble. Bryant had three by halftime of his Big Ten debut and would foul out, finishing with three points and one rebound in six minutes.

With a short turnaround ahead, the Hoosiers take their six-game winning streak into Nebraska this Saturday, with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m. 

"There is a lot of things we need to get better at for tomorrow and the next day, but when you come on the road and win in the Big Ten, you're going to take it." 


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