The Minute After: Nebraska

  • 01/04/2024 12:17 am in

Thoughts on an 86-70 loss to the Cornhuskers:

With the Big Ten season back for good and a new year upon us, Indiana got its first crack at making the case it’s better than what KenPom is currently projecting as a 1-7 record in January.

Tonight’s returns, however, didn’t instill much confidence in that regard.

Credit Nebraska’s defense and its active hands and engaged defense that turned Indiana over. It knocked the Hoosiers off-axis early in this one and they never recovered. But Indiana also had several self-inflicted turnovers and generally didn’t look ready to compete on the road at a high enough level. Add all the miscues up — 19 in total — and the Hoosiers turned it over on 27 percent of their possessions for the evening. The Cornhuskers made them pay for all those mistakes, as they scored 27 points off Inidana’s turnovers, giving them a +21-point advantage in that category.

“We basically gifted them 27 points on turnovers,” Mike Woodson said after the contest. “That was, I thought, the difference in the game tonight.”

Nebraska was particularly strong bringing extra pressure down low and making it hard for Indiana to pass out and gain an advantage otherwise. While Kel’el Ware was able to post a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds) and get some easy looks via lobs, he had four turnovers. Malik Reneau had just two 2-point baskets for the game and turned it over four times. And in his return from a foot injury, Xavier Johnson certainly gave Indiana a different dimension in the backcourt with his ability to go north-south and work in the pick-and-roll, assisting both Ware and Anthony Walker in the first half. But Johnson also turned it over four times, all coming in the first half. Trey Galloway added three turnovers of his own.

“Our starting two guards were awful tonight,” Woodson said.

Woodson again went to Anthony Leal in some spot minutes to try to get more steady play from his backcourt. He played 12 minutes and hit a 3-pointer.

While Nebraska’s schemes for getting 3-point looks didn’t come from continually exploiting Indiana’s nail help, by game’s end the numbers were still good for them thanks to a hot second half (8-of-16, 50 percent). That helped them along to a 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) mark from deep. Those 12 makes tied a season-high for the Cornhuskers.

Indiana shot it well from deep tonight as well (9-of-18, 50 percent), which helped them hit one point per possession for the game. And the Hoosiers were decent enough from the line (13-of-19, 68.4 percent). Seventy points on the road can keep you in a game, but that’s only if you play some defense of your own. With the Hoosiers surrendering 1.23 points per possession to Nebraska, that didn’t happen this evening. They now sit at 105th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.

And on Saturday night, the Hoosiers will face an even better offense in Ohio State. It helps the game is at home. And Indiana still has plenty of chances to rack up the necessary wins to get into the NCAA tournament conversation.

But the evidence is starting to mount that this team may not have it this season.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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