Thoughts on a 96-90 win against the Cornhuskers:
Other teams have sagged off the Hoosiers on the perimeter, goading Indiana into becoming a jump-shooting, stagnant 3-point taking team. It’s been an effective counter to IU’s offense predicated on getting the ball inside, as the Cornhuskers showed again tonight. The Hoosiers shot just 5-of-25 from deep and took too many of them. It’s not how they want to play.
But unlike other programs that have busted out this defensive tactic, Nebraska also countered Indiana’s packline defense in a way where it damn near pulled off the upset in a game the Cornhuskers were heavy underdogs.
Fresh off a stint in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, new Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg trickled down some very NBA-ish offense to toss 1.10 points per possession on the Hoosiers. With the packline predicated on pinching in and keeping the offense out of the paint — and thus susceptible to 3-point shots — Hoiberg countered in the extreme, often fanning five players out along the perimeter. On those sets and others like them, the Cornhuskers also kept two offensive players deep in each corner behind the 3-point line. This opened up the middle for Nebraska and its guards blew by Indiana all game.
It was concerning.
“We’re gonna have to get a lot better guarding the ball,” Archie Miller said after the game. “We’ve shown that we can be better, but in our two Big Ten games here in December, we have gotten shredded.”
The Cornhuskers also fooled the Hoosiers out of the corner. They went back door for buckets. After the game, Justin Smith said it was a wrinkle Indiana wasn’t expecting. When the Cornhuskers weren’t getting buckets at the cup off the dribble or fooling Indiana via the back door, they were letting it rip from distance. Nebraska’s 32 3-point attempts are a season-high from an opponent. Against a defense susceptible to 3-point shooting, and especially tonight with Hoiberg going spread offense, it seemed a clear emphasis in the Cornhuskers’ offensive gameplan. They were able to knock ’em down at a 37.5 percent clip, including a couple monster ones to get the game into overtime. Those late 3s, one from Haanif Cheatham and the other from Dachon Burke, came in the final minute of the game and were cast against the backdrop of an Indiana team on its home court looking scared.
As Nebraska found success against Indiana’s defense, it gained confidence as the game went on and kept coming, never letting Indiana get a double-digit lead. While Nebraska hit key shots down the stretch, the Hoosiers were making mistakes. Sure-handed Rob Phinisee made two bad passes which led to turnovers, another area the Cornhuskers pieced apart Indiana, as they scored 21 points off IU miscues. Damezi Anderson threw the ball away on an inbounds pass with the Cornhuskers full-court pressing. Al Durham also fouled Cheatham on his 3-point make with 40 seconds to go, nearly causing a four-point play with the Hoosiers up four.
It felt like the basketball gods were against the Hoosiers tonight.
And yet … Indiana has some horses of its own and that’s why the Hoosiers ultimately prevailed.
Trayce Jackson-Davis had a monster second half and overtime. When Indiana was able to get him the ball, good things happened. He went for a career high in points and rebounds with a 25 and 15 line. The freshman also had two key blocks in the final five minutes of the contest. After his late turnovers in the second half, Phinisee was brilliant in overtime, scoring seven points and dishing out one assist against zero turnovers. And after shooting poorly from the line in the first half (9-of-15), the Hoosiers hit their free throws in a big way in the second half and overtime, going a combined 18-of-23 over the final 25 minutes of the contest.
There’s plenty to criticism after this one and rightfully so. But Indiana also survived Nebraska’s absolute best shot.
“They don’t ask you how at the end of the year we got it done,” Miller said on the court to Shon Morris shortly after the final buzzer. “We’re gonna take it.”
Filed to: Nebraska Cornhuskers