Ever since the Indiana Hoosiers suffered their three-game losing streak in early January, it seems as if history is repeatedly being made.
After the Hoosiers defeated the top-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, it was a quick turnaround to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights who sat at second in the Big Ten Conference. The in between period of the games raised very similar questions: Could this Indiana team carry their momentum after a huge win?
To answer simply: yes. No. 18 Indiana beat No. 24 Rutgers 66-60.
The odds were not in favor of the Hoosiers considering the opponent they were facing was a team they had not defeated since Race Thompson was a true Freshman for the cream and crimson back in 2019. With that being said, this is a completely different team from last year to now. And even from Dec. 3 to now.
The Scarlet Knights came out to an early four to three lead with 17:24 to go in the first half and that would be the last time the score was in their favor. Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino looked poised early, knocking down two field goals in the first five minutes of play.
Miller Kopp just so happens to have Rutgers number this season after the 21-point performance he had in December as he connected from downtown twice in the first half and played very solid defense throughout the entirety of the game. Kopp would end the game with 18 points along with 4 made 3-pointers, which really allowed the Hoosiers to go to work in the paint.
The Hoosiers got themselves out to a 30-16 lead shortly after the under-eight timeout in the first half. Knowing how this Rutgers team plays; every game will be hard fought. The end of the half very much showed that as the Knights had brought it within three trailing 38-35. Oskar Palmquist of Rutgers drilled three shots from downtown in the final seven minutes of the half in a game that the Hoosiers had looked like they had all of the control.
The second half of action showcased some of the hard-nosed physical and sometimes ugly brand of basketball that Rutgers takes lots of pride in. Considering the Hoosiers were over 60 percent from the field in the first half it was only a matter of time before Scarlet Knights head coach Steve Pikiell would refocus his squad to get back in the game. There was a stretch in the second half where the Hoosiers were held without a made field goal for eight minutes and 19 seconds of play and over that stretch went zero of six from the field.
Hoosier coach Mike Woodson was forced into a timeout during the drought as frustrations of the high turnovers from his frontcourt were becoming a concern. The Hoosiers ended the game with 14 turnovers to the Rutgers 10, and eight of them were as a result of senior Trayce Jackson-Davis and freshman Malik Reneau. There is something common about this Hoosier team, they have lots of adversity and fight through their mistakes.
This leads us to Trayce Jackson-Davis. The turnovers were mentioned but those will likely be tossed aside by most viewers considering the monster yet somehow average performance of 20 points 18 rebounds and 6 assists. TJD surpassed guard Yogi Ferrell for sixth all time in total points as the next man up to beat; is his own coach Mike Woodson.
2,004 points is the final total after the night for the All-American and it should only be a short amount of time before he surpasses the 2,061 mark to be top-5 in Indiana history.
TJD was really able to take control of the game in the second half with the attention he drew to open up Miller Kopp for another pair of threes. The Hoosiers were also relatively effective from the charity stripe (although not at first) as they ended the game 17/24. Trayce, Miller, free throws, and not allowing Rutgers to the line very often were all huge keys to take down their second straight ranked opponent.
This Indiana team now sits tied for second place in the conference at 8-5 in conference play as well as 17-7 on the season. With the last six matchups going in favor of Rutgers, this was a feel good win no matter the fashion for Indiana. As Big Ten basketball goes the Hoosiers will have tough tests ahead of them as four out of the next five games will be on the road and it will all start on Saturday night in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines.
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