4 storylines for IU’s game vs. Rutgers

1. Another must-win scenario.
Beating Rutgers won’t do much to enhance Indiana’s NCAA Tournament resume, but a loss would eliminate any hope the Hoosiers have of securing an at-large bid next week on Selection Sunday. Without question, IU cannot settle for anything but a victory in the regular season finale. The Scarlet Knights have won each of the last two meetings between the schools — Rutgers’ only two victories in the series’ short history. Rutgers ended IU’s 2018 season at the Big Ten Tournament before swatting the Hoosiers away with a 66-58 win on Jan. 30 in New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights no longer appear outclassed inside of the conference, and their seven Big Ten victories are their most in league play in 13 years when they were members of the Big East. With a noon tipoff and IU students on spring break, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall won’t feel as electric as it typically does for these crucial conference contests. IU will need to create its own energy in order to propel itself through a game that the team absolutely cannot afford to drop.

2. Go to Geo.
Sophomore guard Geo Baker has given Rutgers a go-to playmaker this season, something Indiana knows from experience. Baker is averaging 13.7 points in three career games against the Hoosiers after dropping in 16 during the first meeting of the season. Half of Baker’s points in that contest came at the free throw line, a product of his effort to attack through the paint and force contact. Baker ranks second in the Big Ten in steals (1.7 per game), fifth in assists (4.2 pg) and seventh in minutes played (33.9 pg). He’s scored in double figures 42 times in 61 career games, with three 20-point efforts this season.

3. Harper on the rise.
Baker has enjoyed help this season from Ron Harper Jr., who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday following his career-best effort at Iowa last weekend. Harper scored 27 points to help Rutgers upset the No. 22 Hawkeyes, 86-72, in Iowa City. The 14-point margin of victory was Rutgers’ greatest on the road against a ranked opponent in program history. Harper had a big hand in the effort, going 9-for-13 from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. The newcomer has been especially efficient during the past week, averaging 20.5 points, while shooting a combined 15-for-22 from the field in the Scarlet Knights’ past two games.

4. Offensive follow-up
Thursday’s performance against Illinois featured some of IU’s most impressive offensive work of the season. The Hoosiers scored 1.38 points per possession — their highest mark of the season, by far — and recorded 17 assists against only seven turnovers. Inside of that, primary ball handlers Rob Phinisee and Devonte Green combined for 11 helpers and zero errors. The Hoosiers’ 64.4 shooting percentage from inside the arc and their turnover percentage of 10.5 were also season bests. Can they stitch together a similar effort in the regular season finale?