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<p>Race Thompson boxing out against Maryland. (HN photo/Max Wood)</p>
Race Thompson boxing out against Maryland. (HN photo/Max Wood)

Spaletto's Scouting Report: Indiana starts Big Ten play against Rutgers

The Hoosiers hope they don't have a hangover from an emotional win Wednesday

In any sport, the game after a big win is almost as hard as winning the big game itself, especially when you win at home. There’s so much effort that goes into winning that game, that the game after might be considered a trap game. And Indiana basketball finds itself in one of those situations at 4 p.m. Saturday against Rutgers.

This is also the first conference test IU faces this season, and it would be huge for the Hoosiers to start out the season 1-0 in the Big Ten. However, Jersey Mike’s Arena is always a tough place to play, as we saw last year some of the elite teams in the Big Ten fall to the Scarlet Knights on the road. Here’s a look at this year’s Rutgers team.

Taking a look at the Scarlet Knights

Rutgers has had IU’s number over the past couple of years, as the Scarlet Knights have now won five games in a row against the Hoosiers. Every year when it seems like Rutgers loses some of its key pieces from the previous year, Steve Pikiell still manages to develop his talent well and make Rutgers a dangerous opponent at home. 

The Scarlet Knights pose a frontcourt threat that the Hoosiers must be ready for. Cliff Omoruyi leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game and just under 10 rebounds per game. He will most likely have the assignment of guarding Trayce Jackson-Davis, and the Hoosier frontcourt will need to step up to help guard Omoruyi.

The backcourt of Rutgers complements Omoruyi very well. Caleb McConnell returns to Rutgers for his senior season, coming off winning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season. McConnell’s partner in crime Cam Spencer helps the Scarlet Knights more on the offensive end. The transfer is a terrific shooter both off the catch and the dribble, averaging 15.5 points per game and shooting at a 47.3% clip so far. It will certainly be a tough task to stop a complete team like Rutgers on the road for the Hoosiers.

Keys for the Hoosiers

I feel like Miller Kopp is due for an outstanding shooting performance this season, similar to one he had last year at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse.  Kopp was brought in by Woodson because of his ability to make shots from beyond the arc, and he’s shown flashes throughout his Indiana career of being a vital piece for this team to accomplish a lot. I’m interested to see how Kopp and 3-point shooting factors into IU’s offensive gameplan.

Second, the Hoosiers cannot afford to give Rutgers second chances on the offensive glass. Even though Rutgers lost to a good Miami team in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, they outrebounded the Hurricanes 19-8 on the offensive glass. Jackson-Davis and Race Thomspon will be essential in order to limit Rutgers’ offensive chances.

Finally, IU will have to calm the storm of what is sure to be a loud Jersey Mike’s Arena on Saturday. We’ve seen teams like Purdue and Illinois play really good basketball and then fall to Rutgers on the road. Luckily, the Hoosiers have already been tested on the road, but they will still need to block out the noise and focus on the task ahead — starting out 1-0 in the Big Ten.

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