BLOOMINGTON – In its first meeting against Rutgers a month ago, Indiana could not get its best player established, due to the inside defensive presence of Rutgers center Myles Johnson.
Finding a way to score more inside against Johnson will be one of the keys as the Hoosiers (12-10, 7-8 Big Ten) face another critical game down the stretch against the Scarlet Knights (12-9, 8-9).
IU sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was limited to 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting and turned the ball over four times in a 74-70 loss to Rutgers on Jan, 24. Johnson made it hard for Jackson-Davis to establish position in the post, or even catch entry passes, as he recorded three steals by poking post entries away.
At 6-foot-11 and 256 pounds, Johnson also was a significant presence at the rim against the Hoosiers, blocking five shots and altering others. Indiana finished its first meeting against Rutgers shooting just 35% from 2-point range (14-of-40).
“Myles Johnson is probably, if not the defensive player of the year in the Big Ten, he’s right there to win the Big Ten defensive player of the year,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said on his radio show Monday night. “He’s a tremendous one-on-one defender inside, and the way he impacts the game was really big in that game, and then they really funneled everything to him.”
Miller said part of the blueprint in facing Johnson the second time around is for guards to make more plays, in an effort to get Johnson shifting more inside the paint.
“They’re going to have to make more plays individually than they are accustomed to doing,” Miller said. “To me, that will be the difference in the game — our guard play and our turnovers.”
Defensively, Miller said Indiana needs to tighten up and continue to play physical. Rutgers has had its offensive struggles of late, scoring just 59 points in its last outing, a 68-59 loss to Maryland on Sunday. Rutgers is averaging just 63.3 points over its last four games, going 1-3 during that stretch.
After holding Michigan State to 26 points in the first half, IU’s defense collapsed in the second half of its 78-71 loss to the Spartans, allowing 52 points.
Taking care of the ball and not allowing Rutgers to get out in transition will be important as well. IU has averaged 14.3 turnovers over its last three games. Even without fans in the stands, it will be an emotional Senior Night for a number of Rutgers players in their home finale, including guards Geo Baker and Jacob Young.
“We cannot go to Rutgers trying to take that first punch,” Miller said. “I think they are the ultimate team in the league that when they throw the first punch and connect they can keep coming very quick before you wake up. You don’t understand what’s going on in the game, so we’re going to have to be really ready to start.”
BRUNK, STEWART OUT
Miller confirmed Tuesday center Joey Brunk and grad transfer guard Parker Stewart will not play for the rest of the season. The 6-11 Brunk underwent back surgery in December and hasn’t played in a game this season, while Stewart — a midseason transfer from Tennessee-Martin — is still acclimating in practice.
“Neither guy is available,” Miller said. “We’re down to 10 days left in the regular season.”
Miller said Stewart is doing more in practice but not enough to warrant playing time.
“He has yet to be fully engaged in practice,” Miller said. “He’s still dealing with a lot of different stuff just in terms of getting acclimated, getting in the groove of things. He does participate in good portions of practice, now moreso than he did two weeks ago, three weeks ago. I think the big thing for him is to continue to get acclimated.”
HOMECOMING FOR GERONIMO
The game will be a homecoming for IU freshman forward Jordan Geronimo, who is a Newark, New Jersey, native. Geronimo did not appear in IU’s last game against Michigan State and played just two minutes against Minnesota. Miller said there was nothing wrong with Geronimo physically Saturday.
“He just hasn’t gotten the opportunities that we’ve had him in a position to get a couple of weeks earlier,” Miller said. “It’s something we’re looking forward to doing down the stretch is to get him back involved a little bit more because he does some good things … as you look at the Michigan State game, could have really used Jordan, 20-20 looking back at it and as we head in here to Rutgers and as we head in here to the back stretch in general, I think Jordan will re-emerge for us.”