What to expect: Nebraska
Indiana is still seeking its first road win and the Hoosiers will travel to Nebraska for a Monday evening contest with the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is 6-12 overall and has lost 10 of its last 11 games.
Monday’s game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. ET tip on BTN with Jeff Levering and Raphael Davis on the call:
Indiana will look to reverse its woes away from Bloomington as it attempts to get a road win against a struggling Nebraska team.
The Cornhuskers, who lost to the Hoosiers 68-55 on Dec. 4 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, are hoping to get a boost soon with the return of Trey McGowens.
The 6-foot-4 McGowens is the team’s best perimeter defender and hasn’t played since suffering a broken foot in a 77-69 loss to Creighton on Nov. 16.
McGowens has been cleared to return and based on recent comments by Fred Hoiberg, his return to the floor sounds imminent.
Indiana, meanwhile, remains winless in true road games after an 83-74 loss at Iowa on Thursday. The Hoosiers are 0-4 overall in road games and 0-3 in Big Ten games away from Bloomington. If the program’s NCAA tournament drought – which dates back to 2016 – is going to be broken, Indiana is going to need to figure out a way to win a few road games.
THE FIRST MEETING
The first meeting, which was the Big Ten opener for both teams, was a game the Hoosiers controlled throughout the second half.
After only scoring six points in the first 10:12 of the game, Indiana outscored Nebraska 62-39 over the final 29:48 of the contest.
A major reason for the comfortable win was Indiana’s defense, which held the Huskers to just .76 points per possession. Nebraska shot just 46.2 percent on 2s and 22.7 percent on 3s (22 attempts).
Nebraska’s star freshman – Bryce McGowens – was held to just eight points and 3-of-14 shooting from the field in 33 minutes. McGowens has scored in double figures in seven of Nebraska’s last eight games.
Indiana’s 3-point shooting, which has been trending in the wrong direction recently, was a key in the win in the early December victory in Bloomington. The Hoosiers made eight 3s and shot 36.4 percent from distance in the win. Through six Big Ten games, the Hoosiers are now just 10th in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage at 31.
One other key from the first game was Indiana’s ability to turn Nebraska’s 14 turnovers into 21 points. The Hoosiers won the points off of turnovers battle 21-11, a significant advantage in a 13-point win.
(Stats are now for conference games only. Numbers are through Saturday’s games.)
Nebraska is the Big Ten’s worst team by a significant margin. The Cornhuskers rank last in the conference in points per possession and points per possession allowed. Only one of its Big Ten losses has come by fewer than 10 points.
Rebounding will be a major key for Indiana if it hopes to capture its first road win of the season. Nebraska ranks 13th in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers also don’t do a great job of getting to the foul line, ranking 10th in the league in free throw rate (FTA/FGA).
Both teams have struggled with turnovers at times, but taking care of the ball will be top of mind for IU following the Iowa game. The Hawkeyes turned 23 Hoosier turnovers to 34 points in Iowa City. Indiana has to be much better in Lincoln at taking care of the ball.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The KenPom projection is Indiana by 10 with an 81 percent chance of a Hoosier victory. The Sagarin ratings like Indiana by 8.5 points.
While Indiana’s resume doesn’t have many high quality wins, the Hoosiers have done a good job avoiding losses against bad teams. Monday’s game won’t move the needle much in terms of a quality win, but avoiding a loss against a team that has some horrific computer numbers is important.
The Cornhuskers are 202 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, 160th in KenPom and 138th in the Sagarin ratings as of Sunday afternoon.
Even though the return of Trey McGowens is imminent, it’s fair to wonder where Nebraska stands in terms of its confidence after its recent performances. The Cornhuskers lost by 28 at Rutgers on Jan. 8, by 10 at home to Illinois on Jan. 11 and most recently, by 27 at Purdue on Jan. 14.
In recent weeks, Mike Woodson has spoken regularly about “breaking the ice” on the road and this contest against the league’s worst team marks the best opportunity yet. Will the Hoosiers finally get over the hump?
Filed to: Nebraska Cornhuskers