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Indiana Basketball Game Preview: Rutgers – key storylines, injury report, how to watch



Previewing Indiana basketball at Rutgers by looking at key storylines, injury reports, how to watch and other updates. (Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball hits the road for a Big Ten Conference matchup at Rutgers as the program carries on during its 124th season of competition in men’s basketball. The Hoosiers are coming off a very important win over Ohio State to improve to 3-1 in the Big Ten.

The Scarlet Knights (8-6, 0-3) have three players averaging at least 10 points per game in senior forward Aundre Hyatt (11.9 points per game), senior center Clifford Omoruyi (10.7), and senior forward Mawot Mag (10.3). The game will feature two of the six players in the Big Ten that collect at least 8.5 rebounds per game. Omoruyi pulls down 8.9 rebounds per outing for Rutgers, the fourth-highest figure in the B1G. Sophomore center Kel’el Ware is fifth at 8.8 boards per night.

Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Peacock

Below is the full preview of Indiana basketball at Rutgers.

Key Storylines

Kaleb Banks and CJ Gunn showing positive signs, have to be consistent 

It seems as though you can never talk about Kaleb Banks and CJ Gunn without talking about the other. In this storyline, we are going to stick to that script, for positive reasons. In the last few games, we have seen the sophomore duo of Banks and Gunn play with more confidence and maturity.

Starting with Banks, Woodson has went with him a bunch more as of late due to the high motor and defense he has brought on the floor. With questions still concerning Mackenzie Mgbako and his defense, Woodson has put much more trust into Banks when it comes to those areas. While the offense is still not there for Banks yet, you can always rely on him to bring a spark off the bench.

With Gunn, his minutes have been very inconsistent all season with many hoping to see him finally have a breakout game. While he had one vs Michigan last month, it would be awhile until we saw that same type of performance even seeing his minutes go to senior guard Anthony Leal. However that changed with his 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting against Ohio State last game.

We finally saw what the sophomore shooting guard could bring to the floor at a consistent level.

“I mean, that just comes from work he puts in,” Xavier Johnson said about Gunn’s performance. “CJ is in the gym all the time and now you’re just seeing the results. He’s a guy that has high confidence in himself and fears nothing.”

For both Banks and Gunn, it is just all about consistency moving forward. They are still learning the game, but are showing positive signs in term of growth. Their growth only make Indiana basketball much more deep.

The ceiling is so much higher when Xavier Johnson is on the floor

Indiana basketball is just so much better when a heathy Xavier Johnson is on the floor.

When Johnson returned at Nebraska after missing 6-straight games, he was awful, just like Mike Woodson stated. He was rusty like you could imagine and had a total of zero points, 4 turnovers, and only 3 assists in 14 minutes.

Last game vs Ohio State, we saw the old, healthy Xavier Johnson scoring 18 points on 4-of-9 from the field with three assists and zero turnovers in 34 minutes.

“He was a little irritated at me (for Nebraska’s minutes), and I get that, because only played him 14 minutes. His 14 minutes were awful. I don’t care how you look at it, you get 14 minutes, you got to be positive, do some things to help us win the game. He didn’t do that,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “Today I told him at would shootaround I was going to play him, let him loose. I thought he was huge tonight.”

When Xavier Johnson is playing like the way he was vs Ohio State, the ceiling is so much higher for this young Indiana team. His presence also boosts the Indiana backcourt’s play a ton as well. With the leadership he brings, you don’t have to rely on the young freshman guard in Gabe Cupps to play more minutes than what he needs to.

The key is just keeping Xavier Johnson healthy for the rest of the season. Indiana basketball NEEDS him in order to reach success this year.

“I can’t make that excuse though. I’m a sixth-year guy,” Johnson said postgame. “The team and Coach Woodson expects a lot out of me, and I’m going to give everything I got from the rest of the year on out.”

Doesn’t matter if it’s on the road, you cannot lose to Rutgers this year

Indiana basketball sits at 11-4 on the season. The wins have not been the prettiest but they have eleven of them. Other than the Ohio State win, Indiana basketball does not have a whole lot to boost their resume. What they can rely on is, they don’t have any ‘bad’ losses.

A loss vs Rutgers this year, will be a bad loss.

The Scarlet Knights have taken a step back this season after looking to be one of the surging programs in the Big Ten the last few years. Rutgers currently sits at No. 89 on the Kenpom ratings an adjusted offensive rating of 227. Indiana is No. 91 on the Kenpom rating so this an important game for the Hoosiers.

You also throw in the fact that Indiana basketball has not won at Rutgers since 2018 so this game makes it all more of a trap for the Hoosiers.

You can make a strong case that this is the most important game for Indiana thus far this season. They can’t afford a bad loss on a record that does not have many quality wins so far. If Indiana stay on the bubble the rest of the season, this could be a loss that keeps them out of the NCAA Tournament.

Get a win, and continue to build momentum and confidence.

More: ‘High confidence in himself and fears nothing’: CJ Gunn excels as Indiana basketball outlasts Ohio State

Series History

The two programs have met 16 total times on the hardwood with each team earning eight wins in the series. Both teams protected home court last season with Rutgers winning 63-48 on Dec. 3 before Indiana won 66-60 on Feb. 7.

The Hoosiers are looking to secures its first win in Piscataway since Feb. 5, 2018. Juwan Morgan scored a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field in IU’s 65-43 win at The RAC.

Indiana Women’s Basketball: A lot of shooters just need to see one go in’: Indiana women’s basketball sets school record for most 3s in road game

Injury Updates

Jakai Newton: Newton had a lower body surgical procedure done this past offseason to help fix a previous injury he sustained during high school. He is still recovering and is not expected to play for the rest of the season.

Related: Indiana basketball guard Xavier Johnson reveals injury that kept him out over a month

Quick Hitters

Who?: Indiana (11-4) (3-1 Big Ten) at Rutgers (8-6) (0-3)

When?: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 • 7:00 PM ET

Where?: Jersey Mike’s Arena (8,000) • Piscataway, N.J.

TV: Peacock (Noah Eagle, Stephen Bardo)

Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, John Herrick)

Betting Lines: Indiana basketball is listed as a 3-point underdog via DraftKings Sportsbook.

SEE ALSO: Indiana basketball reaping the benefits of rigorous offseason work for Malik Reneau: ‘Got to tip your hat to him’

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Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.