Rutgers basketball winning streak over Indiana ends at six
It took four years, a season-ending injury and 40-minute tug-of-war, but Rutgers basketball’s incredible stranglehold over Indiana is over.
With defensive standout Mawot Mag sidelined for the remainder of the season by a torn ACL, the Scarlet Knights’ six-game winning streak over the Hoosiers ended in a 66-60 defeat at a frenzied Assembly Hall Tuesday.
Senior All-America candidate Trayce Jackson-Davis posted 20 points, 18 rebounds and six assists as Indiana (17-7 overall, 8-5) avenged a 15-point drubbing in Piscataway two months ago to defeat 24th-ranked Rutgers (16-8, 8-5) for the first time since 2019.
It was not easy. Indiana jumped out to a 14-point lead and Rutgers pulled within one in the second half. But the Hoosiers attacked the glass much better than the last meeting and showed some grit that had been missing when these sides faced off in the past.
The two are now tied for second place in the Big Ten standings, behind Purdue.
As reported by the Indianapolis Star, in the game's final minute video replays showed Rutgers point guard Paul Mulcahy appearing to trip Jackson-Davis as the big man dribbled past. It's possible that could be reviewed by the Big Ten for violation of its sportsmanship policy.
More:Rutgers basketball star Paul Mulcahy's Twitter deleted amid Indiana tripping furor
1. Roles enlarged for Hyatt, Simpson
As expected, Aundre Hyatt got the start in place of Mag (7.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg). The 6-foot-6 junior finished with nine points and four boards in 27 minutes. Although he’s a good defender – you don’t get substantial minutes under Steve Pikiell if you can’t defend – Hyatt is more offensive threat than a defensive stopper. And Rutgers took that identity on in what was, for them, a shootout first half that ended with Indiana leading 38-35.
It's not the way Pikiell wants to play, but it'll take time to adjust as he figures out a new rotation. He turned to freshman guard Derek Simpson (7 points, 3 rebounds, a team-high plus-6 in the plus/minus) to slow the Hoosiers down in the second half, and it worked.
Where Mag was missed most throughout the body of this game was on the glass. Indiana was minus-14 on the boards at Rutgers two months ago and plus-4 today.
2. Oskar Palmquist!
There is something to be said for not giving up on a player who is buried on the depth chart. Palmquist, a junior who’s been a deep reserve throughout his career on the banks, has answered the call since Mag went down. He hit a key 3-pointer in the second half of Saturday’s win over Michigan State and helped rally Rutgers in the first half at Indiana, draining three triples. If Rutgers has to score more now that Mag is out, he could play a key role.
3. No harm done, and maybe some help
College basketball season is long enough that you can take a constructive loss, especially when you have resume equity. Rutgers’ effort should galvanize the players with the belief that they can still defend at a high level and punch back in a tight spot without a warrior like Mag. Remember, Indiana entered the night with the Big Ten’s most potent offense and shot just 32 percent from the field in a 28-point second half.
Next up is another tall order, Saturday at Illinois (16-7, 7-5) after the Illini got an unplanned bye due to a COVID postponement by Minnesota. Tough circumstances for the visitor, but if Rutgers fought here, it can fight there.
1. Pikiell on playing without Mag: “We’ve only had a couple of days now to figure things out without Mawot. He’s been a huge part of what we’ve been trying to do. I feel awful for him. Guys love him, too. He definitely would have helped us on backboards today, and with our defense. But we have to make adjustments. We haven’t had a lot of time to work on things without him. We have to spend time the next couple of weeks getting adjusted.”
2. Pikiell on Rutgers' bench: “I do think Oskar came in and gave us some great minutes. Derek (Simpson) and the bench is going to be real important moving forward now that we've moved Aundre into the starting lineup... (Simpson) can go by people with his speed and quickness. He’ll defend, too. I felt today he had it going a little bit. He’s got to keep getting better because that’s an important part of this thing going forward.”
3. On the team’s emotion about Mag’s injury: “It’s tough. These guys are tight. This group is really connected. Mawot is right in the middle of it, a great teammate. It’s tough on Mawot. He’s battled hard to get to where he’s gotten, and to have this right in the middle of things is not where he wants to be — and not where any of us want him to be. And he’s got great friends on the team, so they feel for him.”
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Rutgers basketball winning streak over Indiana ends at six