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Scouting Notes: Rutgers



Indiana basketball vs Rutgers basketball
A deep dive into Rutgers and some of the challenges it could give the Indiana basketball program in Tuesday's matchup. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball looks to get its second straight Big Ten win on Tuesday night when traveling to Rutgers, a place its lost four in a row.

The Scarlet Knights are led by head coach Steve Pikiell in his seventh season. Rutgers enters at 8-6 overall and 0-3 in Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 229th overall in offensive efficiency with a 102.3 rating. Defensively, they have an efficiency rating of 93.7, which is ranked 13th in the country. Overall, Rutgers is rated 90th overall in the KenPom ratings.

Here is a deep dive into some of the challenges Rutgers could give the Indiana basketball program.

Key Players

While there is not one dominant player, there are a handful that contribute consistently for Rutgers. That group is led by versatile forward Aundre Hyatt. Hyatt is the most consistent, scoring above nine points in all but two games this season. Athleticism is the first thing that pops when Hyatt hits the floor. He is long, built and quick – with his hands and footwork. That allows him to be a tremendous defensive player. Hyatt’s game starts on the defensive end and allows him to get out in transition on numerous occasions for easy buckets. In a half court setting, Hyatt has turned much more into a three-point shooter than his previous three years. 55 percent of his shot attempts are coming on 3s — making 35.1 percent. He’s made at least two 3s in eight games this season. Despite being a physical style of player, he’s shot just six free throws in the last six games. Indiana needs to force Hyatt to become a midrange shooter, the area he struggles the most in. Hyatt won’t do a lot of shot creation off of the dribble.

Mawot Mag is another versatile wing who can play and guard numerous positions. At 6-foot-7, Mag is another long and athletic perimeter player. Mag missed the first month of the season recovering from a knee injury he suffered last year, so much of the last few weeks has been shaking off some of the rust. Mag hasn’t lost his aggressiveness however and is someone who will see a lot of his action from 15 feet and in. Mag can hit from the perimeter, but is very streaky. He does have some ability to bring playmaking from the wing, but isn’t going to pass teammates open, rather just make the right plays.

Cliff Omoruyi has been the staple for Rutgers in the front court, although he’s seen his production dip this season without legit and consistent perimeter play. Omoruyi’s impact starts on the defensive end, averaging 3.4 blocks per game. He has four blocks in seven games, including a seven and eight block performance this year. Omoruyi has great size, strength and athleticism, so it’ll be a tremendous matchup with Indiana basketball center Kel’el Ware. Omoruyi has seen some of his offensive production fall off with more defensive pressure on his post touches. He’s shooting just 51.4 percent on the second-lowest shot attempts of his career. A lot of his action will come off of screen and rolls and offensive rebounds. Omoruyi does get to the line 4.5 times a game, shooting 63.5 percent. He has a 20-attempt game from the foul line this season.

In the backcourt is sophomore Derek Simpson. Simpson has the talent but is extremely streaky and lacks the ability to take good shots consistently. His efficiency is very low, shooting just 35 percent overall and 36.6 percent on 2s. At 6-foot-3, Simpson has good size, length and speed at the lead guard spot. But, he’s much more of a score first than pass first player. He’s at his best attacking the basket and using his athleticism to score in the paint. But, he will be happy settling for 15+ footers even if it’s not always there. He has three games above 15 points this year but also six games where he has scored six or less points. He’s a true wildcard.

Noah Fernandes has yet to find his stroke since transferring in from UMass. A career 38.6 percent shooter on 4.4 attempted 3s per game in three years at UMass, Fernandes is shooting just 27.3 percent this season. At only 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Fernandes doesn’t have great size or frame to attack inside the paint. He is a good midrange shooter and that opens up his offensive game and ability to get more looks inside 15-feet. He’s scored 17+ points three times this year but also has three scoreless games and six total games less than three points. Despite his struggles, the Indiana basketball guards cannot give Fernandes open looks from three to start.

Off of the bench is Gavin Griffiths — the highest rated prospect in Rutgers history. He’s a 6-foot-8 wing who comes in with the reputation as a good shooter and terrific offensive player. Someone who has the ability to create his own shot, something missing in Rutgers’ offense, he’s struggled to begin his freshman year. He’s shooting just 35.5 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three. He has a quick and high release point on his shot, so it’s typically difficult to pressure him on his attempts. He scored 25 points in his second career game this season but on the flip side, he’s just 1-of-15 in his last five games from three.

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

Key Tendencies

Despite being a very inefficient offense, Rutgers likes to push the pace. It ranks 30th in average length of possession while having just a 44.7 percent effective field goal rate — 333rd nationally. Rutgers struggles in a half court setting, mainly due to its inconstant guard play and lack of true playmakers off of the dribble. Rutgers is an inside-out team, shooting just 29.1 percent on 3s, with just 6.0 made 3s per game. Of the players attempting more than two 3s per game, only one player is shooting above 31 percent (Aundre Hyatt). With its physical style of play, Rutgers draws a lot of fouls — shooting 22 free throws per game — but is shooting just 66.6 percent overall, 305th nationally. It gets 21.4 percent of its points from the foul line, however. Indiana basketball allows just 17 percent of opponents’ points from the foul line — a key matchup in this game. This will be another critical front court matchup for Indiana and how it will do matching up with a more versatile and hybrid set of forwards.

Defensively is when Rutgers is at its best. Not only do the Scarlet Knights force tough shots, they have numerous versatile defenders on the floor at all times. Opponents are shooting just 38.8 percent from the field — 16th nationally — and have an effective field goal rate of just 44.6, 12th in the country. The defensive unit starts and ends with Cliff Omoruyi. Omoruyi is averaging 3.6 blocks per game and leads RU’s pressure that has a 16.1 percent block rate — 4th nationally. If Rutgers isn’t getting its hands on the ball at the rim, it is on the perimeter, forcing 15.6 turnovers per game and having a 22.6 percent turnover rate. Indiana basketball has had issues with mental mistakes and live ball turnovers this season, so limiting the easy transition opportunities for Rutgers will be extremely key. Omoruyi is rarely in foul trouble but if the Indiana basketball bigs can force the issue with him, it could go a long way in limiting the effectiveness of the Scarlet Knight defense.

Overall, Indiana basketball has the defense to limit anything Rutgers does offensively. With its inability to shoot 3s at a high rate, it could be a big confidence booster for a struggling Indiana basketball defense at times this season. If Rutgers gets a few to go early, it could be a very long night as it has made more than six 3s just four times this season and shot above 30 percent just five times. Rutgers has forced 15+ turnovers in six games this season while Indiana has turned the ball over 15+ times just three games. But, with Rutgers ranked 13th in turnover margin in the country, it’s a stat that needs to be followed throughout the entirety of the game. This could be another game where Indiana gets hot from three. Rutgers have allowed five opponents to shoot 43 percent or better on 3s, while allowing at least eight 3s in six games. While the front court matchups will be tight, this is absolutely a backcourt matchup that the Hoosiers should — and need to — win.

Projected Starters

G – Derek Simpson (Sophomore; 6-3, 170)

Stats: 9.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.4 spg

G – Noah Fernandes (Senior; 5-11, 175)

Stats: 8.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.1 apg

F – Mawot Mag (Senior; 6-7, 215)

Stats: 10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 apg

F – Aundre Hyatt (Senior; 6-6, 225)

Stats: 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 35.1% 3pt

F – Cliff Omoruyi (Senior; 6-11, 245)

Stats: 10.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.4 bpg

Key Notes

  • Cliff Omoruyi is the leading shot-blocker in the conference this year (47). He has multiple blocks in 11 of 14 games this season and seven games of at least four blocks
  • RU is also 13th in the nation in turnover margin
  • Rutgers has at least six players averaging 7.0+ points per game
  • All-time series is tied 8-8 but Indiana has lost the last four games at Rutgers with two by double-digits and all four by at least eight points. Indiana is 2-7 in the last nine games

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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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.