After a pair of road losses marked Indiana’s first back-to-back defeats this season, the Hoosiers are eager to return home for a matchup against a struggling Rutgers team still searching for its first Big Ten road victory.
The No. 22 Hoosiers can get back on track Saturday by recording a ninth straight home win while extending the Scarlet Knights’ season-worst losing streak to six games.
Indiana (15-6, 5-3) won four in a row before allowing Ohio State to shoot 62.3 percent during an 82-70 loss in Columbus on Sunday. The Hoosiers then visited rival Purdue and allowed the Boilermakers to hit 58.7 percent of their shots in Wednesday’s 83-67 defeat.
Tom Crean’s squad, which has allowed 52.7 percent shooting in the last five games, didn’t help matters by shooting 37.9 percent and posting its second-lowest scoring effort of the season Wednesday.
"We’ve just got to stop playing soft," said guard Yogi Ferrell, who had 21 points. "We think it’s going to be easier than it is, and now we’re just learning the hard way."
Indiana hasn’t had an easy time away from home with a 2-3 record while averaging 67.4 points and giving up 74.8. Four of those opponents have shot 46.0 percent or better.
At home, however, the Hoosiers are 12-1, averaging 85.7 points and are 3-0 during league play with victories over the then-No. 22 Buckeyes and then-No. 13 Maryland.
"We know the value of this crowd," Crean said after Indiana shot 60.0 percent during an 89-70 win over the Terrapins on Jan. 22 in its most recent home contest.
The Hoosiers are looking to continue taking advantage of that environment while playing six of their final 10 games at Assembly Hall.
"The fans of Indiana are always great," said Ferrell, who scored 24 and hit all but one of his eight 3-point attempts versus Maryland. "We’re still going to need all the fans to be like that every single night."
Along with freshman backcourt mate James Blackmon Jr. (16.3 points per game), Ferrell (16.2 ppg) is among the top-10 scorers in the Big Ten and has been the Hoosiers’ most consistent offensive player of late. He’s averaged 23.7 points and shot 56.5 percent in three games after averaging 9.2 on 27.1 percent shooting in the previous five.
Indiana beat Rutgers 55-50 in the only other meeting on Dec. 28, 1980, in Hawaii.
In their first Big Ten season, the Scarlet Knights (10-12, 2-7) are 0-4 on the road in the league – one of four teams without a win away from home during conference play.
Since holding then-No. 4 Wisconsin to 42.9 percent shooting in a stunning 67-62 victory Jan. 11, Rutgers has allowed an average of 73.2 points in five games and yielded at least 50 percent shooting to three of those opponents. Penn State and Michigan State each shot 50.9 percent in the last two contests.
"We have to drive them and teach them, but you also have to make it fun," coach Eddie Jordan said after his team shot 29.1 percent in Thursday’s 71-51 home loss to the Spartans. "We come in every day and I try to make it a good atmosphere where they can learn and compete."
Leading scorer Myles Mack (14.0 ppg) has totaled 15 points on 5-of-21 shooting in two games after he averaged 20.3 in the previous four, while teammate Kadeem Jack (13.3) has averaged 17.0 points in the last four.
Rutgers has dropped 24 straight road games against Top 25 teams.