Even after Nebraska had turned a 16-point first half deficit into a four-point lead in the second half, Indiana didn’t panic. They started hitting shots, and the Huskers had no answer for Robert Johnson and the Hoosiers.
Johnson hit three three-pointers on the night and finished with a team-high 14 points for Indiana in the Hoosiers’ 70-65 win over Nebraska on Wednesday afternoon at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Although it was Indiana’s offense that stoked them to a 16-point lead in the first half, their defense stymied Nebraska over a key six-minute stretch in the second half, holding the Huskers to just three points while the Hoosiers took the lead for good and held on down the stretch.
“I think we played at their pace too much (in the first half),” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. “Anytime you’re going to miss against Indiana right at the rim, they are going to make you pay.”
“They really got us in transition. They really hurt us and were able to build the lead.”
Indiana held a 67-54 lead with just under five minutes to play, but Nebraska wasn’t finished as Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields led the comeback. Petteway’s lay up capped an 8-0 run and two free throws from David Rivers trimmed the Indiana lead to 67-64, but the Hoosiers hit three free throws in the final moments and didn’t allow another Nebraska field goal. Petteway led Nebraska with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Shields added 20 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Huskers from dropping their Big Ten opener for a fourth straight season and falling to 8-5 overall and 0-1 in league play.
“We are excited to come in here and get a win–it is a very tough place to play, a great environment, very good team,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “Our key is to just keep getting better in every way we can.”
“We made strides in the last couple of weeks, but more importantly than that, it is very important to make strides from game to game. We closed the game well.”
Nebraska came out of the gate strong, leading 7-2 before the Hoosiers stormed back and took the lead in the first half for good behind their three-point shooting. Johnson hit two threes, while James Blackmon Jr. added another and the Hoosiers took a 36-22 lead with 3:53 left before halftime. The Huskers responded and closed the half on a 10-4 spurt before starting the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 43-42 lead at the 16:24 mark after a jumper by Shields. Walter Pitchford then hit a three-pointer to give the Huskers a 46-42 advantage, but Indiana responded with a 14-3 run of their own to open up a seven point lead they would not relinquish.
“They kept changing their defense on us, but we just could not make any shots,” Nebraska guard Terran Petteway said. “We just were not hitting shots.”
Despite the efforts of Shields and Petteway, Nebraska had little other sources of offense and could not win the battle on the glass, getting outrebounded by the Hoosiers 44-31. Hanner Mosquera-Perea dominated inside, scoring 12 points and adding 10 rebounds as Indiana (11-3, 1-0) scored 38 of their 70 points for the game in the paint. Nebraska (8-5, 0-1) got 11 points and five rebounds from Walter Pitchford, but only received 11 points from its players not named Shields, Petteway, or Pitchford.
Crean was happy with how the Hoosiers were able to dominate inside, despite not having a huge front line to go up against the depleted Nebraska front court.
“We don’t have that big of team ourselves. It is very important that we score points in the paint, and when we do play through the paint we are effective,” Crean said.
Miles thought Nebraska had a chance once they opened the second half to overcome the eight-point deficit and briefly take a four-point lead on two separate occasions.
“I thought we were playing good basketball. We weren’t allowing them transition. We were guarding the ball better. We were locked in more defensively,” Miles said.
“I feel like we gave them a good run. It’s hard not to feel like you beat yourself.”
The Huskers did commit a season-low eight turnovers, but shot just 39 percent from the floor in the game and could not win their Big Ten opener for the first time in school history. The last time the Huskers won a conference opener was a 63-62 win over Iowa State in their final season in the Big XII during the 2010-11 season.
Nebraska continues Big Ten play at Iowa on Monday night, with tip-off set for 8 p.m. The Huskers then return home to host Rutgers on Thursday night at 8 p.m. as they look to win at home for just the second time in their last five games at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Indiana is at Michigan State on Monday night for a 6 p.m. tip-off.