Indiana vs. Rutgers
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
When: Noon today
Records: Indiana (16-14, 7-12 Big Ten), Rutgers (14-15, 7-12)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM
There are few players in the Big Ten that mean as much to their teams as Juwan Morgan means to Indiana.
The Hoosiers senior has been a key player for four seasons, emerging as a team leader over the last two years as the program has navigated the sometimes bumpy transition from coach Tom Crean to Archie Miller. Morgan has been an important bridge between the two administrations and one of the Hoosiers' best players on top of all of it.
Today, the Waynesville, Missouri, native will play his final game at Assembly Hall when the Hoosiers play host to Rutgers. The other members of Morgan's original recruiting class, Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby, have departed for the NBA, leaving Morgan the last man standing from the 2015 group. Transfers Zach McRoberts and Evan Fitzner will join in the Senior Day festivities.
Morgan was mostly nonchalant about the prospect of his coming Senior Day, preferring instead to focus on winning the game against the Scarlet Knights (14-15, 7-12 Big Ten).
“It's here,” he said when asked about his final game in Assembly Hall. “That's the best I got. ... It's still another game, that's what I'm going to it as. Afterwards, I'll have a little something, but right now, I gotta get ready for (the game).”
The Hoosiers (16-14, 7-12) fell against the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, New Jersey, 66-58 on Jan. 30. It's a different team now, winners of three in a row and playing with more energy and intensity for a full 40 minutes.
The Hoosiers spent much of the season looking for consistency and seem to have finally found it in the season's final stretch. Miller said maintaining that battling mindset will be important against an improved Rutgers team.
“We haven't really gotten too high or too low in the last three weeks and the key going into (today) will be can we be the same team that we were coming (to Champaign),” Miller said after a win Thursday over Illinois. “That's the whole key.”
That mentality has helped the Hoosiers climb back into NCAA Tournament contention, but they can't afford a loss to the Scarlet Knights if they want to stay there heading into Big Ten Tournament play.
Rutgers, which will finish above last place for the first time since joining the Big Ten prior to the 2014-15 season, is looking to end the regular season .500 and play spoiler on Indiana's tournament ambitions.
The Hoosiers will have to play better offensively than they did the first time against Rutgers, when they made just 35 percent from the field and 26 percent on 3-pointers.
They seemed to find a blueprint for offensive success against Illinois, shooting 55 percent thanks to aggressiveness from guards Romeo Langford and Rob Phinisee and strong work on the offensive glass from Morgan and Justin Smith.
This matchup also has seeding implications for the conference tournament, with both teams entering the game 7-12 in conference play.
Indiana has already locked up a first-round bye by virtue of tiebreakers over Illinois and Penn State, but Rutgers needs a win to clinch one. The Hoosiers could rise as high as the No. 9 seed with a win.