After losing for the first time this season in their Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, Indiana bounced back Tuesday night by defeating UConn in the 2019 Jimmy V Classic. The Hoosiers, now 9-1, return back to Bloomington to take their second conference game of the season on Friday night.
The Fred Hoiberg-led Nebraska Cornhuskers will visit Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with a 4-5 record overall and a 0-1 record in the Big Ten. The newly formed Huskers replaced nearly their entire roster during the offseason and have been struggling quite a bit to establish an identity. They are currently ranked 157 in KenPom at the time of writing, which factors in adjusted offensive and adjusted defensive rankings in the 160s.
With a win, Indiana can finish off the first part of Big Ten play with a .500 conference record before returning to their remaining non-conference slate of games.
How to Watch
|What||Indiana Hoosiers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|When||Friday, December 13, 2019, 8 p.m. ET|
|Where||Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall – Bloomington, Ind.|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek|
|Listen||IU Radio Network|
|Spread||IU -17.5, Over-Under 147.5|
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Getting to Know the Cornhuskers
Nebraska sits at 4-5 on the season and are coming off back-to-back losses against Georgia Tech and Creighton. The Cornhuskers lost both matchups by a combined 36 points while struggling on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Hoiberg’s squad has lost three out of their last four games and look to pick up their first conference win against the Hoosiers.
Indiana leads the all-time series 12-7 with the Huskers having won the last three meetings against IU. None of the Cornhusker players who will suit up against Indiana have ever played the Hoosiers.
Offensively, Nebraska is averaging 73.6 points while shooting 43.3% from the field per game. Four players are scoring in double figures led by Marquette and FGCU transfer Haanif Cheatham. The senior guard is averaging 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while leading the team with a 57.3% field goal percentage.
Although Cheatham certainly helps the Huskers with scoring, he can also become a liability for Nebraska on the defensive end. To his credit, he has been improving over the season, but it is not uncommon for him lose his assignment. Between not paying attention to off-ball movement and not having the lateral speed to keep up, Cheatham frequently needs help-defense from his teammates. Hoosiers may find this as an area they can exploit on Friday evening.
The Cornhuskers are shooting over 32% from the three-point line on the season. Iceland-native Thorir Thorbjarnarson is shooting over 52% from deep, going 10-of-19 from behind the arc. The junior is second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage entering the week and will be Nebraska’s sharpshooter for the evening. Indiana will need to make sure execute proper gap closures on the 6-foot-6 Thorbjarnarson.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nebraska has given up over 77 points per game and opponents have connected on 42.8% of their shots. The Cornhuskers force 5.8 steals per game and their interior defense average 3.4 blocks per contest. Entering Friday’s contest, Nebraska is fourth in the conference in turnover margin at +2.4 per game.
The Cornhuskers have forced an average of 15 turnovers per game ranking third in the conference. Sophomore Cam Mack leads the team in steals at 1.4 per game while also sitting at eighth in the league in that category. Dachon Burke Jr. and Jervay Green each average over one steal per game.
12/13 UPDATE: Nebraska suspended Green indefinitely, starting with tonight’s ballgame.
Mack, who started the first seven games, has been a strong leader for the offense. He is athletic, grab rebounds as well as any guard, can navigate the lanes under control, and has shown his ability to make difficult passes. On the season, Mack has struggled a bit on his three point shooting as he is only converting 28.6% of shots from distance.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Nebraska Cornhuskers||Indiana Hoosiers|
|G: #11 Dachon Burke Jr.||G: #1 Al Durham|
|G: #22 Haanif Cheatham||G: #11 Devonte Green|
|G: #3 Cameron Mack||F: #3 Justin Smith|
|G: #34 Thorir Thorbjarnarson||F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis|
|F: #24 Yvan Ouedraogo||C: #50 Joey Brunk|
What to Watch For
1. Nebraska’s Lack of Size
Indiana has the size advantage in this contest as Nebraska’s tallest player is freshman Yvan Ouedraogo. The 6-foot-9 inch forward averages 18.3 minutes per game and started in the Cornhuskers’ last contest against Creighton. The Huskers have an average team height of 77.1 inches, which is nearly 1.5 inches less than Indiana’s average height.
Look for the Hoosiers to take advantage with front court players such as Trayce Jackson-Davis, DéRon Davis and Joey Brunk. Indiana’s offense can work to get efficient shots inside against smaller competition. On the same page, also watch for Nebraska to space the floor and make the Hoosiers’ big man guard on the perimeter.
2. Indiana to find their rhythm offensively
The Hoosiers are averaging 59 points in their last two contests against Wisconsin and UConn. Against the Huskies, 10 out of 11 Indiana players scored, but no one reached double digits. Despite Indiana’s balanced scoring, which has been a promising sign, the Hoosiers have seen a dramatic dip since the start of the season.
Friday’s contest is back in Assembly Hall where coach Archie Miller’s team scores over 85 points per game at home. This will be a chance for Indiana to keep building the offensive chemistry amongst the team as the health of the team improves.
3. Righting the wrong from last season
Many Indiana fans can remember the Hoosiers losing 12 out of 13 games last season, falling out of NCAA tournament contention. One of those losses from last season was against Nebraska. Indiana fell 66-51 with only former Hoosiers Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan creating any type of offense for the team. The home loss against the Huskers ended up being one of the bad losses against Indiana’s resume.
This year’s Indiana squad is more experienced and have depth at all positions to compete in the Big Ten. If the Hoosiers want to gain traction in the conference, they have to come out and win the games like the one at hand.
4. Which Indiana guards will be available?
The return of Phinisee came at an important time as the Hoosiers bounced back from a tough road loss against Wisconsin. Who knows what would have happened if Archie Miller had the services of his main point guard up north.
Right now, Indiana’s four guards seem to be a fragile bunch with injuries to both Phinisee and Green to start the season. The game at the Garden was one of the very few games that Indiana had their full depth of guards to use at their disposal and the ability to rotate proved to be a key to victory for Indiana.
After the game in New York, Green clearly needed assistance getting off of the court as you can see in the following video. He was holding on to Indiana’s athletic performance coach Clif Marshall. In the grand scheme of things, this could be another game that Indiana decides to rest one of their guards in order to take on a more difficult team with full force.
Featured Photo: David Banks / USA TODAY Sports