BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In a modern era of basketball where three point shooting and high paced offense reign, the team in Bloomington is putting on a very different type of show. They are putting on a show that is much uglier to watch. The Hoosiers ultimately put down an undermanned Nebraska team in a back-and-forth, rock-throwing contest that went into overtime. The clutch performance of Nebraska guard Dachon Burke kept Nebraska alive in the final seconds of the second half. Indiana was led by freshman star Trayce Jackson-Davis who had career highs of 25 points and 15 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
Off of the 12 overtime points from Jackson-Davis and Rob Phinisee, Indiana moves to 10-1 on the season and 1-1 in the Big Ten. The Huskers get their sixth loss on the season to move to 4-6, 0-1. Something noteworthy: home teams are currently 11-0 in conference play for the Big Ten this season.
Big Ten wins won’t come easy, but a home game against Nebraska might have been the easiest Indiana will get all season. Minutes before the game, Nebraska announced the suspension of one of their key guards Jervay Green due to a violation of team rules. The loss of Green meant that Nebraska would only have eight scholarship players for the evening.
As it has been for Indiana in recent memory, “easy” would prove to be anything but easy.
Immediately after tip, the Hoosiers showed a brief flash of what their potential ceiling when all cylinders are hitting. Al Durham hit an open three and Justin Smith knocked down a pair of free throws. Devonte Green, Durham, and Smith then each contributed fast-break points to give the Hoosiers a quick 11-2 lead.
But then, the ever-so-familiar early game struggles reappeared. Fred Hoiberg called for offensive sets that pulled out Indiana’s interior and he used off-ball motion to create easy give-and-go layups for his team. Nebraska established their confidence after scoring on a 10-0 run in less than two minutes of game time.
Perhaps it was Tuesday’s late game catching up to this Indiana team who really only had a full Thursday to recover. It could also be Nebraska’s week-long break to prepare for this game. Regardless, Indiana lost their momentum in the blink of an eye, and they were never able to get it back at that same level until the overtime period.
Nebraska’s backcourt of Cam Mack and Haanif Cheatham led their Huskers in moving the basketball and facilitating the offense with impressive passes, which allowed Nebraska to tally assists on half of their 14 made field goal attempts early on. The pair finished the first segment with 16 points and 6 assists combined.
Memories of Madison returned for fans in Simon Skodjt Assembly Hall. Offensively Indiana could not take advantage of opportunities against an active Cornhusker defense. Even when left open, the Hoosiers simply could not make their shots – something that has now become a three-game theme. Indiana opened with making just one of eight from behind the arc. The Huskers continued to live the perimeter open for Indiana, but Indiana could not take advantage.
For the rest of the first half, both teams played each other evenly. Great plays from players like Phinisee, Joey Brunk, and Justin Smith were matched bucket-for-bucket by the Nebraska side. You just know Archie Miller already has tough, defensive practices planned for the team until their next game. The Hoosiers would go in to the break nursing just a single-point lead over the Cornhuskers at the half 40-39.
In the second period, Jackson-Davis took control of the game for Indiana. After just three points and five rebounds in the first half, Jackson-Davis battled his way for ten points around a well-protected rim by the 12-minute mark. He was a major reason why Indiana controlled the early glass against the Huskers.
Indiana also did not disguise their plan of attack. The offensive goal was clear to everyone on the floor and to the thousands in the stands: feed Trayce the ball. All of the Indiana guards looked directly into the lane, and the same with all of the Nebraska defenders. Even clear intentions, there was not much that Nebraska could do against Jackson-Davis who took advantage by being more active and more aggressive under the rim. He ran both ends of the court with upped hustle and spent very little time with both feet planted after shots went up.
While all eyes were on Jackson-Davis, Smith took advantage of a distracted Huskers defense. As the other front-court presence in Archie Miller’s second half line up, Smith was able to take advantage of the numbers when the Husker double-team and triple-team showed up on TJD. The junior forward had a double-double of his own with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Credit to the Huskers, Nebraska did not give up. Upperclass guards Cheatham and Burke sliced and diced Indiana’s offense with a quick first step that seemed to catch multiple Indiana players by surprise. Nebraska countered Indiana’s offense not with locking down on defense, but instead fought fire with fire by pushing their off-ball motion on offense to the next gear. Their plan was to out-shoot the Hoosiers, and it ended up being a plan that worked.
The drama continued until the very last ticks. With just 40 seconds remaining on the clock, the Huskers who were down by four points 74-78 was able to in-bound the ball to Burke who sank a deep three-pointer while also getting fouled by Durham. Durham picked up his fifth on that play and finished his night with 14 points, three assists, and three rebounds. Thankfully for Hoosier fans, Burke missed the and-1, which led to Damezi Anderson being quickly fouled.
With time nearly expiring, Burke once again performed in the clutch for Nebraska by hitting a deep three to take the game into overtime 82-82.
At the end, the Indiana depth was too much to handle for Nebraska’s team of eight scholarship players. The Hoosiers outscored the Huskers 14-8 in the final overtime period. Anderson’s defense and hustle gave opportunities for Phinisee and Jackson davis who combined for 12 points in the extra period.
Huskers head coach Hoiberg deserves recognition for his ability to bring his team into Bloomington with a game plan that they executed fairly well in the first half. Nebraska ran out of gas, but their team brought heart and preparation to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Source: Indiana University Athletics
Number of the Night: 54
If there is any silver lining in this dirty laundry, it was the fact that Indiana completely dominated the offensive glass against the undersized Nebraska Huskers. They were led by Jackson-Davis and Smith who combined for a total of 25 rebounds. The number of the night also represents a rebound-margin of +23, given the fact that Cornhuskers were only able to grab 31 all evening.
Even with the large discrepancy off of the glass, Nebraska was still able to hang in the game with their three-point shooting that converted at critical points of tonight’s game.
Next Up: Notre Dame
After a week-long hiatus, Indiana will get back on the road for the annual Crossroads Classic game where they will be paired up against a 7-3 Notre Dame team. Mike Brey and the Irish are seeking their first signature win of the season against Indiana, after dropping all of their high-major games to North Carolina, Maryland, and Boston College. The contest is scheduled for Saturday, December 21, 2019 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The noon tip-off will be broadcasted on ESPN.
You can get an early preview of the Irish by watching their game against UCLA on Saturday, December 14.
Featured Photo: Anna Tiplick / IndianaHQ