Indiana's men's basketball team took care of business last week, winning a pair of games at Assembly Hall, including one of their most impressive wins of the season – 66-54 over then-No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday.
“Everyone had an impact,” coach Archie Miller said of the triumph over the Buckeyes. “There was a lot of positive things. As our team finished the week, emotional week as it was to win two games at home, you step back and say, 'Wow, that took a lot.' Then you reset your batteries here, and we're geared up for another opportunity coming.”
In a conference like the Big Ten in which 11 of the 14 teams received votes in this week's AP Poll, every game is an opportunity to add a quality win to an NCAA Tournament resume. That's even true against a perennial conference doormat like Rutgers, which the Hoosiers take on tonight in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Scarlet Knights, who have finished in last place in four of their five seasons in the Big Ten, are enjoying one of their best campaigns in recent memory, already boasting two wins over ranked opponents – Seton Hall and Penn State – and running up an 11-0 mark at home.
“They're a really good team,” Miller said. “The RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center) is a tough place to play. They're a hard-playing, tough team, always have been. At home they'll beat anybody in the country on a given night.”
Home teams have been dominant throughout the Big Ten this season, running up a staggering 31-5 record in league play. No team in the conference has come away unscathed on the road and Indiana's two forays away from home in conference play have resulted in a pair of losses by an average of 18 points.
Indiana has had plenty of energy in most of its home games this season. On Saturday against the Buckeyes, all 10 Hoosiers played frenetically for 40 minutes, according to Miller. That was especially true on defense, where Indiana held a potent Buckeyes team 19 points below its average. Now the challenge is taking that intensity on the road.
“That's the thing you wish you could bottle up as a coach,” Miller said of his team's energy Saturday. “They hit that switch and it's go time. The best bring it every night. We're learning. This is a group that's sort of finding its way as a team, how we have to play a certain way. We've shown glimpses of the good, we've shown some glimpses of the bad.”
Rutgers is preparing for a physical matchup inside against the Hoosiers. Starting center Myles Johnson played just 13 minutes in a loss to Illinois on Saturday because of foul trouble and coach Steve Pikiell is expecting some fouls from the 6-foot-10 big man and the rest of his front line against Indiana's big men. That increases the importance of his two 6-9 bench players, Mamadou Doucoure and Shaq Carter.
“Douc(oure) is important in this game because their front-court fouls guys, they collect fouls,” Pikiell said. “We've gotta be able to guard some guys around the basket.”
The Scarlet Knights will likely be without junior guard Geo Baker, who has missed three games with a broken thumb. He averages 11.4 points, second on the team.
Indiana at Rutgers
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, New Jersey
Records: Indiana (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten), Rutgers (12-4, 3-2)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM