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Miller Kopp starred in Indiana's 63-48 defeat at Rutgers, scoring 21 points and hitting a career-high five 3-pointers. (Rutgers Wire/Kristian Dire)
Miller Kopp starred in Indiana's 63-48 defeat at Rutgers, scoring 21 points and hitting a career-high five 3-pointers. (Rutgers Wire/Kristian Dire)

'They were tougher than us': No. 10 Indiana's struggles against Rutgers continue in opening Big Ten loss

IU suffers its sixth straight loss to Rutgers inside Jersey Mike's Arena, where the Scarlet Knights are 10-3 against ranked teams the past few years

It was a struggle from start to finish for No. 10 IU inside Jersey Mike's Arena where ranked teams have met their match in an environment as rowdy as any in the sport. IU was sloppy with early turnovers and failed to consistently rebound, all leading to the 63-48 loss, its first of the season.

Now get this: the 48-point game total was the lowest of the Mike Woodson era and fewer total points than what IU scored in the paint alone against North Carolina.

The Scarlet Knights made IU's offense look unrecognizable and clearly had a defensive game plan which was executed to perfection. Rutgers applied extreme ball pressure on IU guards Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway, making it even harder to initiate their half-court offense with any efficiency.

Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino was sidelined with back spasms and coach Mike Woodson spoke on his absence and how it affected the team post game.

"He's another guy who can handle the ball, but my thing is, next man up," Woodson said. "And we just didn't get that."

On top of that, it's the best any team has defended Trayce Jackson-Davis all season. Jackson-Davis was consistently met by double and triple teams in the paint, making him an afterthought on offense most of the night. 

The lone bright spot for IU was the performance of forward Miller Kopp. The 3-point marksman took advantage of his open looks, cashing in for 21 points and a career-high five made 3-pointers, three of which were IU's first three made field goals.

Kopp did all he could to keep the Hoosiers within striking distance. Woodson praised Kopp's effort but was in dismay at the performance of the rest of his supporting cast.

"Miller was solid from beginning to end," Woodson said. "I didn't get much out of anybody else. I've got to change that."

As encouraging as it was to see Kopp be aggressive and efficient, it doesn't hide the fact that Indiana cannot afford to have Kopp be its lone offensive weapon. Kopp making eight of the Hoosiers' 17 total field goals is not something we should expect to see the rest of the year. 

It was a disappointing performance by Indiana's bench, with the non-starters shooting a combined 2-for-15, only scoring six points. Starting forward Race Thompson continues to look lost on the offensive end, drifting out of the perimeter shooting ill-advised 3s which never seem to be a part of a good possession.

Another forward in Jordan Geronimo has not taken the leap offensively that the Hoosier faithful were waiting for. These two key pieces will have to start producing consistently in order for IU to hold its own against a couple top-10 teams beginning with No. 4 Arizona next week in Las Vegas, followed by No. 9 Kansas in Lawrence.

For now, IU will not be happy watching the tape of this one where it was seemingly unprepared for the atmosphere and the defensive scheme of Rutgers. This team is far from perfect and will have to shore up its defensive rebounding and ability to hit open 3s come Wednesday night with Nebraska in town.

IU was outrebounded 47-33 and everyone not named Miller Kopp shot just 1-for-16 from 3 with most of the looks being wide open.

"They were tougher than us," Woodson told Don Fischer on the postgame radio show.

Woodson wrapped up his thoughts with the calming message that his guys will regroup and be prepared to respond to their first taste of adversity this season.

"You suffer your first loss, and it's tough," Woodson said. "We have to regroup. Games are coming back at us. I've got to get them ready to go."

IU will face its second Big Ten opponent when the Cornhuskers make their only visit to Assembly Hall this season. Tip-off will be shortly after 8:30 p.m. Eastern in front of what promises to be another great atmosphere in Bloomington.

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