For the second straight game, a hot start for Indiana fizzled into a disappointing finish and the result was another body blow to the Hoosiers' chances of an NCAA Tournament berth.
IU led by as many as 15 in the first half but shot only 28% the rest of the way and Rutgers won going away at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Wednesday, prevailing 74-63 behind 20 points apiece from Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker.
The loss comes on the heels of Indiana letting a 13-point lead slip against Michigan State on Saturday.
“Here lately, in particular in our last two games, when things haven't gone well, we haven't responded with that comeback effort we need,” coach Archie Miller said. “This is a humbling game. It's the first time all season long our team has really looked fractured, where we didn't know how to compete, what to do. We have to figure this out and get our team up off the mat here.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis led Indiana (12-11, 7-9 Big Ten) with 21 points and 11 rebounds, his 10th double-double of the season, and guard Al Durham added 20 points on 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, his second 20-point performance in two weeks.
The Hoosiers raced out to a 23-8 lead in the game's first 10:18, buoyed by four 3-pointers and 14 points from Durham. In the final eight minutes, however, Rutgers (13-9, 9-9) made 7 of 8 3-point attempts – the Scarlet Knights missed their first seven 3s – and Indiana went only 3 for 13 from the field. By the break, Rutgers led 35-31.
Two Harper 3-pointers quickly pushed the lead to 10 after halftime and an 11-0 run that included five points from Baker left the margin at 20 with 6:38 remaining. At that point, the Scarlet Knights had outscored Indiana 57-22 in a 21:20 span.
“We weren't ready out of halftime and it started with our defense,” Miller said. “When things don't go well for us, the thing we've hung our hat on and been able to do is really scrap, compete and find a way to make it anybody's game. In our last two second halves, when things haven't gone well, ... our response hasn't given us a chance.”
Hoosiers forward Race Thompson played with a mask on his face as a precautionary measure after being accidentally hit in the face in practice Tuesday. He had nine rebounds, but only two points.
Guard Armaan Franklin, Indiana's second-leading scorer, did not score in the game and did not play in the second half after re-aggravating the ankle he hurt in early January against Maryland.
Rutgers had 10 blocked shots to none for Indiana. Scarlet Knights center Myles Johnson had seven blocks.
Rutgers had 22 fast-break points and nine dunks.