Hoosiers run away from Rutgers, 65-43

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Devonte Green learned merely two minutes before tip-off that he would be starting Monday’s game at Rutgers.

Freddie McSwain, meanwhile, planted the seed for his second consecutive start with the energy and toughness he brought to Indiana’s previous game against Michigan State.

Altogether, the five Hoosiers that took the court for the opening tip-off at the Rutgers Athletic Center comprised a lineup that no one would have predicted only weeks ago. But together, they provided the springboard for a decisive Indiana victory.

The Hoosiers rode an outstanding start to a 65-43 runaway victory over the Scarlet Knights before a sleepy announced crowd of 4,360, snapping a four-game Indiana losing streak in the process.

A focused and aggressive start, combined with offensive production from IU veterans and a team-wide defensive effort equaled the Hoosiers’ most lopsided road victory since dispatching Illinois by 27 points on Feb. 25, 2016.

Perhaps most impressive, it came in the midst of IU’s seventh one-day turnaround of the season.

“It was really a good performance by our guys,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “We talked a lot about coming in here tonight and just trying to establish an effort level and a toughness level that wasn’t there last week when we had a similar turnaround (at Ohio State). I thought our guys did a nice job of responding in that way.”

Green entered the starting five for struggling point guard Josh Newkirk, while McSwain started his second consecutive game over forward Justin Smith. Those two complemented the likes of Robert Johnson, Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts, some of the more familiar names in what has become a mishmash starting five.

The new-look lineup was responsible for the Hoosiers’ liftoff, outscoring Rutgers (12-14, 2-11) 22-6 across the first 11 minutes of the period.

“That lineup deserved to be on the floor to start the game from a productivity standpoint,” Miller said. “Just coming through here in the last three weeks and studying some things and looking at it, I definitely wanted to go with that lineup as we came on the road here. It got off to a pretty good start.”

Morgan paced Indiana with 24 points, while Johnson added 19 for the Hoosiers (13-12, 6-7), who host Minnesota on Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The early-game highlights included a steady stream of shots from beyond the arc, where Indiana began the night by hitting five of its first seven attempts.

All told, it was one of IU’s best long-range shooting nights of the season, as the Hoosiers went 9-for-20 from behind the arc. The night included three 3-pointers from Morgan, a 26-percent 3-point shooter entering play.

The Hoosiers willed their way to basically everything they wanted offensively, while shutting down Rutgers defensively across the bulk of the opening half.

Steady playmaking from Green helped set the table.

“The playmaking ability is something I think we’ve been missing, and that’s one thing Devonte’s actually really done a nice job with three out of the last four games is being able to get some guys some easy ones. When you have a guard out there sometimes who can make it easy and get you some good looks, that can get you off to a better start. All in all, it was a good start for us.”

That is, until an 8-0 Rutgers run late in the period cut IU’s lead from 16 points down to eight. The dip coincided with Morgan, McSwain and McRoberts leaving the floor for a break late in the half.

But Indiana, which led 26-16 at halftime, held Rutgers without a field goal over a seven-minute stretch early in the second half. It allowed the Hoosiers to sprint to a 20-point lead on a 3-pointer by Collin Hartman at the 12:34 mark.

By that point, what was already a small crowd began to filter out of the arena, having decided that enough was enough from the Hoosiers.

Rutgers’ 43 points ties the fewest allowed by Indiana in a Big Ten game since the 1996-97 season. The Scarlet Knights’ 24.1 percent shooting percentage is the lowest by an IU Big Ten opponent across the past 21 years.

For much of the contest, Indiana relied on concentrated scoring. Green was one of only three IU scorers (Morgan, Johnson) until freshman Al Durham drained merely his second 3-pointer in his past 16 games at the 15:03 mark of the second half.

In his first start since Nov. 24, Green was equally effective on the defensive end. The sophomore was a big part of the equation that limited Rutgers’ Corey Sanders to a 1-for-11 night from the field.

“He’s a good player,” Green said of the Scarlet Knights’ leading scorer. “He’s fast. I just tried my best to stay in front. I had a lot of help on the ball screens, but I tried really hard to play (solid) defense.”

Although Indiana controlled this contest from start to finish, the team left New Jersey frustrated by a familiar flaw — free throw shooting.

The Hoosiers made only eight of their 18 attempts from the line, at one point watching Johnson miss three straight during a single trip to the stripe.

Even so, there was a bright spot hidden amongst the wreckage of another ugly free throw performance. McSwain converted each of his four attempts at the line, an encouraging development for a player IU relies on primarily for rebounding.

McSwain produced nine rebounds on Monday, following up his 16-rebound effort on Saturday against Michigan State.

In total, he and the rest of IU’s go-to lineup made the most of their starting assignments.

“I guess you could say I earned it,” McSwain said.

Yes, all five of them certainly did.

9 comments

  1. Another outstanding effort. Archie found a lineup that sets the team’s heartbeat. It has been a joy to watch an IU team get better as the season ages. Crean teams never improved at year end, and in fact, digressed.

    There’s no chance the team we’re seeing now would lose to ISU & IUPFW. The defense and ball movement have improved, as has the effort. Get those 2 games & shoot FTs of just an average D1 team & we’d be 16-9 or maybe even 17-8. I don’t think anyone is going to want to see this team in their bracket in NYC. They can beat you, beat you up & wear you down for the next round at a minimum.

  2. there was one moment the camera caught early in the game when the players huddled and were excitedly talking with each other…..like they enjoyed being on the same team with each other.

    I became a fan of this team at that precise moment, and agree completely with you aWinAZ.

  3. Who would have predicted this starting 5 at the beginning of the season? Archie has picked the guys that compliment each other, and even with their shortcomings, has assembled a tough, defensive minded group. As mentioned, have loved watching Morgan develop this year. One more year of growth, and it’s possible he is an NBA player. Green is the surprise right now. He is playing under control and let’s see if it lasts. He is the only guard that can distribute the ball on this team. To me, a real disappointment is Moore, and I’m wondering why IU recruited him. Other than his size, he looks completely lost on a basketball court. He is a real project and you don’t bank on that for the future. I still think Archie needs another big man for next year besides a scoring guard. Anyway, at least the last two games, it has been fun watching this team compete and play strong defense. They have a great shot at wining the next two games. Go IU!

  4. I agree with Hoosier Hopeful on Moore, he’s a real longshot in becoming an effective player in the Big Ten. I believe Coach Miller felt obligated to honor the scholarship offers that Tom Crean made, and gave the recruits a chance to show their abilities. Green played well last night, but still needs to work on his passing skills. Not a complain but an observation of his short passes either have a spin on the ball and/or speed of the ball and placement makes it hard for the player to make a clean catch on the ball.

  5. I think I watched McSwain hit four consecutive free throws last night. Was I dreaming? I thought I watched IU players hitting three point shots last night. Was that real? Unfortunately, I witnessed our guards continue to make stupid decisions that lead to turnovers, fail to finish at the rim, and take really bad outside shots that wasted possessions. Perhaps that was a function of having a 22 point lead in the second half, but Archie is going to have to eliminate the bad habits of his guards if this team is going to beat anyone of significance throughout the remainder of the season. Let’s be honest, Rutgers played terrible last night. I’m happy that IU took advantage of that and got a road win, but IU’s guards have got to eliminate their stupid mistakes if IU is going to have any chance to beat “better” teams from here on out.

    1. Found one of the most amazing stats today…

      Even with our struggles over the last three decades to get back to banners…. Even with a bumpy ride of a season under our newly acquired coach….Even with the abandonment of recruiting Indiana h.s. talent over the last five years… Even with our struggles to get back to NCAA tournament success beyond Sweet 16’s(something nine other Midwestern programs collectively achieved 23 times over the last seven seasons)…..Even with the frivolous 3-way calling NCAA investigations and our “wrecked” program…Even with changes in viewing habits and the reality that sports is competing against shifts in cultural priorities…Even with the increasing challenges to keep fans engaged/passionate in a social media driven world depleting interest in all sports across the board….
      Even with ALL the aforementioned realities and the nonsense people spew that we are no longer an elite basketball institution…..Despite it ALL, we continue to remain at the top of the conference in total attendance.

      Big Ten Total Average Attendance(Home & Away):

      #1 Indiana 14,569

      Thank you, BEST FANS IN THE WORLD!

  6. Indiana is 7th in the country in total defense during the last 4 games. 3 of those teams are the three best in conference. I think Archie’s team is finding their identity. Even more impressive is that they’re doing this do some pretty tough teams without a guy over 6’8″. Well, at least one that finds the court (channeling Captain Kirk: “Priller!!!!!!”).

    Now how about some rest for these “student athletes”?

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