Last week prior to Indiana’s game at Michigan, IU coach Teri Moren talked about the sense of urgency and desperation her team was under to get back in the win column.
After the Hoosiers came up short in Ann Arbor, the focus turned to Monday’s home game against the No. 24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights, a team the Hoosiers blew a 14-point lead to in Piscataway at the end of January. Then Monday night, Indiana scored 15 straight points between the second quarters to take command.
But just like that Thursday night at the end of January, the swagger and grittiness of the Scarlet Knights showed up again. The Hoosiers were outscored by nine points in the final quarter and Rutgers stormed into Assembly Hall to grab a 69-61 win over the Hoosiers.
Indiana has now lost six of its last seven games and find themselves in the bottom four of the Big Ten.
"We couldn't put it away, that's what it was."
Following tonight's 69-61 loss to Rutgers, inconsistency continues to plague Indiana, as a 15-0 run between halves still wasn't enough to finish the job. #iuwbb pic.twitter.com/n4qrLanJxc
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 19, 2019
“The sense of urgency has already passed us by,” Moren said. “We’ve been playing with that since the Minnesota game. If you don’t have that sense of urgency every time you step between the lines and you’re not competitive, you’re not starving for a win, then you’re playing the wrong game.”
On a night where four Hoosiers scored in double figures, the other four players who scored contributed just five combined points. Every player on the floor had a negative plus-minus and Indiana committed 18 turnovers.
But no matter the mistakes Indiana made, the Hoosiers still led for over 10 minutes, including their biggest, a seven-point lead, with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter. And unlike earlier in the season, Indiana hasn’t been able to close out in late game situations.
“There’s certain critical moments in the game we don’t just cease and there’s necessary times when we need to get a stop and sometimes they don’t come up with that stop or we need a bucket and it goes in and out,” IU forward Brenna Wise said. “We need to do a better job of understanding when those critical moments are and ceasing them.”
With Ali Patberg sidelined for a fourth straight game, both Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney played all 40 minutes. And while Yeaney said she has played big minutes in the past and it doesn’t affect her, Moren said both Penn and Yeaney are not fully healthy. Yet with out Patberg, they are both forced to play big minutes. Moren did mention the hope is to get Patberg back in Thursday's game, but is not sure how much she will be able to contribute.
Freshman Grace Berger has been Patberg’s replacement in the starting lineup. In her first game filling in at Michigan State, Berger played a career high 35 minutes and contributed double-digit points. But Monday night, she played 21 minutes with just two points and didn’t play the last 7:48 of play.
“We’ve been in too many situations where we have that lead and haven’t been able to hang onto it,” Moren said. “That’s what’s frustrating for me, the staff, and I know it’s frustrating for our players, as well.”
Things aren’t going to get easier moving forward for the Hoosiers with the Iowa Hawkeyes coming to Bloomington on Thursday. With Iowa’s win over Maryland on Sunday, the Hawkeyes and the Terrapins are now tied for first place in the Big Ten.
That is going on at the top while the Hoosiers are looking to get out of the bottom four.
“I would say this about our team: they are starving for a win,” Moren said.