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My Two Cents: Red Flags Went Up on Saturday For Indiana, But For How Long?

Hoosiers Now on FanNation logo Hoosiers Now on FanNation 12/6/2022 Tom Brew
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Poor shooting and a lack of toughness did in Indiana at Rutgers on Saturday, and it raised some red flags as to how good this team can be. Even the Rutgers players knew they could be more physical than Indiana, and they were. For Indiana, were those lessons learned?

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The first quarter of Indiana's basketball season is now in the books. There's a lot to discuss, but first — why does it go so fast? A quarter over already? 

The Hoosiers are 7-1 at the quarter pole and, all things considered, it's been a pretty good start. There were five cupcakes on the schedule — and they were all blowout wins — and three tough games, road trips to Xavier and Rutgers and a home game with North Carolina, the preseason No. 1. 

They won two of three, but the 63-48 loss on Saturday at Rutgers raised a whole bunch of red flags.

Some more serious than others.

But how serious, really? Let's chat about some of those red flags.

Indiana shot the ball horribly on Saturday, outside of Miller Kopp. He made five three-pointers, the rest of the team was 1-for-16 from deep. Is this team really that horrible shooting from deep? 

And outside of Kopp and Trayce Jackson-Davis, the other eight guys were 4-for-33 shooting from all over the floor on the day. Is it something to be concerned about, because we haven't seen this team struggle like that all year.

We have to be careful to not lump everyone in together, and even more careful to remember that while this team is pretty good, it's not perfect. There will be good days, but there will be some bad days too. 

Saturday was simply a bad day. I highly doubt that the same thing happens again.

There are several guys who just aren't getting anything done from the three-point line. Race Thompson is 2-for-16, and Jordan Geronimo 2-for-11. The freshmen, Malik Reneau and C.J. Gunn, are just 1-for-6 and 1-for-8 respectively. 

That hasn't mattered in several games, but it stockpiled on Saturday. The Hoosiers trailed by seven at half, but took a 37-35 lead with 13 minutes to go. 

Then they went more than five minutes without scoring and Rutgers went on a 17-0 run. Bye-bye.

The shooting woes were one thing, but what bothered me most was how badly the Hoosiers were beaten on the boards. The total was 47-33 at the end, and the biggest concern was that Rutgers got 17 offensive rebounds. Rutgers guard Caleb McConnell had five of them. A guard.

A lot of rebounding is about effort, and it just wasn't there for Indiana. They gave up was too many second-chance opportunities and as much as the shooting, that has to be a one-shot deal too, no pun intended. 

Rutgers, to be honest, simply out-toughed Indiana and harassed them all night, both defensively and on the glass.

They weren't going to let Jackson-Davis beat them, and the double- and triple-teams came out of every defense they implemented. Kopp answered the bell, but the others didn't. 

That was the Rutgers plan all along.

"The coaches told us to just lock in on them and execute and impose our will on them,'' said McConnell, who was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year a year ago and doesn't back down from anyone. "We wanted to win more than them, and when we impose our will on other teams, that's when we get those wins.

"Indiana is a big team, a physical team, and they have been bullying teams this year and getting what they wanted. That was our focal point, to be the more physical team. We had to do that against Indiana, and that's just us imposing our will. We wanted to be the most physical team, and that's what they did. I think when we play like that, play physical, it helps with the rest of our game too.

Rutgers has now won six games in a row against Indiana, and they take a lot of pride in that streak. When the schedule came out, they were thrilled to open the Big Ten season at home against Indiana in Jersey Mike's Arena. The atmosphere was electric, and they thrive on that. They beat five ranked teams in that building a year ago, and they plan to do the same this year.

"It's the Big Ten, man, and our fans were into it. The fans were really into it tonight,'' McConnell said. "They wanted to see that, not see UMass-Lowell or anything like that. No disrespect to them.

"It's no secret against Indiana. We had to be more physical than them, and that's what happened. We just all did our job and we came out with a win again. We wanted it more.''

Maybe they did, too. That's the Big Ten, and winning on the road is tough. You have to play well, play hard and make shots. Indiana did none of that. 

It's a loss, but it's just one loss. There are 19 Big Ten games to go, and despite what the message board naysayer cry about, Indiana is not going to lose them all.

They're back at it on Wednesday, at home against Nebraska in the second quarter of the schedule. Here's what the next eight games look like:

  • Dec. 7 — Nebraska at Indiana
  • Dec. 10 — Indiana vs. Arizona in Las Vegas
  • Dec. 17 — Indiana at Kansas
  • Dec. 20 — Elon at Indiana
  • Dec. 23 — Kennesaw State at Indiana
  • Jan. 5 — Indiana at Iowa
  • Jan. 8 — Northwestern at Indiana
  • Jan. 11 — Indiana at Penn State

I tell you what, you can sign me up for 7-1 in this quarter, too. Indiana will be double-digit favorites in all four home games, but probably be underdogs against Arizona, Kansas and Iowa on the road. I could probably even be talked into being content if they go 6-2 in that stretch. How about you?

Of those four games away from home, Kansas is probably the toughest, partly because or their roster, but also because of the environment at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The Arizona game is Vegas is a crap-shoot — again, no pun intended — and it's probably a toss-up in a neutral environment like that. 

Iowa we know. It's a tough place to play, but the Hoosiers have had recent success there. Penn State we know, too, and the Nittany Lions will battle for 40 minutes.

If Indiana is 13-3 at the halfway mark, that's not horrible. I still think this team wins the Big Ten, though Purdue is doing a good job of twisting my mind on that one. It's going to be a tough league for sure.

The biggest thing coming out of the Rutgers loss to me is obvious proof that the Hoosiers need to be tougher. They need to get after it more. 

They'll learn from Saturday for sure. I think we'll see a better effort on Wednesday against Nebraska, a team that's coming off a win over No. 7 Creighton on Sunday. They'll be ready, especially after losing twice to Indiana a year ago.

There's always a lot to learn from losses. Let's hope they did. Let's hope no one in Nebraska's postgame press conference will talk about wanting it more or playing harder executing their will.

That's Indiana's job on Wednesday, especially on their home court. They need to be the ones imposing their will. 


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