The Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeated the Indiana Hoosiers for the sixth straight time in three years following their 63-48 victory on Saturday at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
The Scarlet Knights (6-2) came into the game with a full team after junior point guard Paul Mulcahy, who has been out the last four games dealing with a shoulder injury, was confirmed to be active prior to the game. On the other hand, Indiana’s (7-1) starting freshman star point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino was listed as inactive as he deals with a back injury.
At the start of the first half, Cliff Omoruyi received back-to-back fouls in a matter of seconds three minutes into the game. Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell immediately brought him to the bench and substituted Antwone Woolfolk in the game.
Indiana’s senior forward Miller Kopp gave the Hoosiers early momentum, making three straight three-pointers giving him an early nine points out of the Hoosiers’ 10 in the first eight minutes of the game. The Scarlet Knights were responding right away, scoring 12 points as a team with those eight minutes of play to bring them up by two points going into a timeout.
Last year’s Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, senior guard Caleb McConnell was all over the court on the offensive and defensive side early on, diving for loose balls and grabbing eight rebounds, with five of them being offensive in the first half. The team leads the Big 10 in offensive rebounds with 14.4 per game, grabbing 10 in the first half alone.
Indiana’s senior point guard Xavier Johnson struggled in the first 20 minutes with four turnovers and was limited on shooting, taking only two shots in the first and missing both. The same went for the All-American senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who went 1-for-4 from the field, with his only field goal from the first coming from a goaltend, and 2-4 from the free throw line all in the first half.
Both teams shot 23% from three and under 33% from the field in the first half. The Scarlet Knights benefited from this, for this Steve Pikiell team is known for being gritty on the defensive end. Their usual defensive game plan greatly limited Trayce Jackson-Davis from contributing much in the half.
After one half of play, Rutgers led 31-24, with Miller Kopp leading both teams with 13 points, the only double-digit scorer on both teams, but being one of two players from Indiana to shoot over 33%, besides Malik Reneau who went 1-2 from the field in the first.
In the second half, Cliff Omoruyi returned to the game with two fouls and only three minutes played in the first half, taking the assignment of guarding Jackson-Davis. However, with less than three minutes of play in the second half, Omoruyi received his third foul. Pikiell chose to keep his star center in the game.
The Hoosier then showed why they are ranked 10th in the nation and proceeded to go on a 9-0 run to take the lead in under three minutes until Rutgers’ Paul Mulcahy hit a corner three-pointer to tie the game.
The Hoosiers began to experience foul trouble as their top 50 recruited freshman forward Malik Reneau received his fourth foul with 12 minutes left in the game, forcing Indiana head coach Mike Woodson to bench him.
Freshman guard Derek Simpson then proceeded to go on a run of his own, scoring 10 points in less than three minutes, helping the Scarlet Knights take a 13-point lead with just over eight minutes left in the game. During this, Indiana went on a scoring drought for about 5 minutes until Miller Kopp ended the scoring drought with a left-wing three-point shot giving him 21 points.
With Rutgers leading by 11 points with 3:45 left in the game, Omoruyi deflected a lob to Jackson-Davis, allowing the junior forward Muwat Mag to drive to the paint, get fouled, and bring the Scarlet Knights to the double bonus with three minutes left.
Mike Woodson was forced to use his final timeout with three minutes left after Rutgers trapped Xavier Johnson near the half-court line.
Johnson would then get fouled following the timeout, sinking both free throws. Rutgers would respond immediately as Derek Simpson made a three-point shot giving him 14 points in the game, all coming in the second half.
This would be the dagger, for there was only 2:25 left to play. Indiana resulted in fouling in hopes of coming back, but the Scarlet Knights continued to hit their free throws in the final minutes of play. One of those fouls was on Trayce Jackson-Davis, causing him to foul out for the first time in his 101 games as an Indiana Hoosier.
Shooting struggles for the Hoosiers would cost them the game because players besides Miller Kopp went 1-16 from beyond the arc. Rutgers would finish with three double-digit scorers, with Caleb McConnell being the leading scorer with 16 points.
With this win for Rutgers at Jersey Mike’s Arena, they officially go 10-3 against ranked opponents at home since the 2019-2020 season. On the other hand, Indiana is looking to drop from the top 10 for national rankings.