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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Rutgers forward Deshawn Freeman shoots as Indiana forward Justin Smith defends in the first half Thursday in New York. 

Friday, March 02, 2018 1:00 am

Rutgers 76 Indiana 69

Hoosiers see it slip away

Collapse after being up 24-8, let Knights roll on

Michael J. Lewis | For The Journal Gazette

NEW YORK – What began as a laugher, turned into a squeaker. And then it became a nightmare.

In as inexplicable a performance as it's had in months, Indiana built an early 16-point lead then frittered it away behind turnovers, nonexistent defense and poor shooting Thursday as the sixth-seeded Hoosiers were stunned, 76-69, by Rutgers at Madison Square Garden in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

A poor offensive night from senior Robert Johnson and, well, everybody else resulted in the Hoosiers' shocking exit from the Big Ten Tournament. Johnson, in what may have been his last game as a Hoosier, suffered through a 4-of-16 shooting performance for 12 points. Juwan Morgan led Indiana with 15.

The Hoosiers (16-15) made only 36 percent of their field goals and 26 percent of their 3-point attempts and never had a lead in the second half despite dominating the first 10 minutes of the game.

Rutgers' star guard Corey Sanders dominated Indiana in the second half and finished with a game-high 28 points to lead his team to its second straight upset win.

Now, Indiana must wait and hope for an invitation from the NIT, while Rutgers faces Purdue at 9 p.m. today in the quarterfinals.

It was a stunning collapse by Indiana considering how the game started; after 10 minutes it looked like it would be a Hoosiers rout, as they built a 24-8 lead. But then the shots stopped falling, the defense couldn't stop Sanders, and the turnovers (11 total) piled up.

Indiana was 19 for 53 from the field and had one field goal in the first 11 minutes of the second half.

The Hoosiers hung around and managed to stay in the game – tying it at 46 at one point – and shot well at the free-throw line (25 for 29).

But Sanders and the Knights, who shot 58 percent from the floor, hit their free throws down the stretch and gained the win on their “home court” just 40 miles from their New Jersey campus.

Sanders' bank shot from the right side, followed by a dunk off a fast break that put Rutgers up 67-59 with 1:05 to go to seal it.