What to Expect: Indiana vs. Nebraska

  • 03/15/2024 9:15 am in

Indiana beat Penn State 61-59 Thursday night, setting up a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal matchup with Nebraska Friday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The Cornhuskers swept the regular season series against the Hoosiers. 

Friday’s game tips at approximately 9 p.m. ET on BTN:

Indiana’s season looked over after an 83-74 loss to Penn State on Feb. 24 at the Bryce Jordan Center. It was the fourth straight loss for the Hoosiers and there was no reason to believe the season had anywhere to go but downhill.

All Indiana has done since that loss is reel off five straight wins. After a nail-biting win against Penn State, Indiana has a chance to avenge two regular season losses to Nebraska and reach the Big Ten tournament semifinals for a third straight season.


The Cornhuskers had their way with Indiana at Pinnacle Bank Arena and Assembly Hall.

On Jan. 3 in Lincoln, Nebraska — the first conference game of the new year — Nebraska cruised past the Hoosiers 86- 70. It was a similar fate in Bloomington on Feb. 21, as the Cornhuskers prevailed 85-70.

In both games, defending the 3-point line was a major issue. The Huskers went 12-for-22 on 3s in Lincoln and 14-for-33 on 3s in Bloomington. Indiana was outscored by 39 points from distance in the two losses.

All-Big Ten guard Keisei Tominaga’s movement without the ball proved a tough cover for the Hoosiers in both games. In Lincoln, Tominaga torched the Hoosiers for 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field. In Bloomington, Tominaga went for 20 on 8-for-15 shooting.

Turnovers were a significant problem for Indiana in the loss at Pinnacle Bank Arena. In Xavier Johnson’s first game back following a foot injury, Indiana committed 19 turnovers, leading to 27 points for Nebraska. Seven different players had a turnover. Johnson, Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau each committed four.

While the loss in Bloomington wasn’t a surprise, Indiana’s lack of competitiveness stood out. Nebraska entered Assembly Hall without a conference road win and an average Big Ten road defeat of 12.4 points. The Huskers led by 20 at halftime and while Indiana got within three in the second half, a 14-1 run from Nebraska put the game away for good.

One positive to draw from the most recent meeting was Mackenzie Mgbako’s play. The freshman scored 22 points—a career-high at the time—to go along with seven rebounds. With Trey Galloway sidelined Indiana will need Mgbako to continue to be aggressive during the third meeting between the teams tonight.


All stats in the graphic below are via KenPom.com, are updated through Thursday’s games, and are for conference games only.

Nebraska is one of the most balanced teams in the Big Ten. The Huskers rank 42nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom and 28th in adjusted defensive efficiency. After winning six of its final seven regular season games, Nebraska is ranked No. 30 in KenPom, No. 37 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and is a lock for the NCAA tournament.

Defensively, Nebraska boasts one of the nation’s best 2-point field goal percentage defenses. Big Ten opponents are making just 46.7 percent of their 2s against Fred Hoiberg’s team, the best mark in the Big Ten. For the season, Nebraska ranks 14th nationally in 2-point field goal percentage defense. For an Indiana offense that is built around getting the ball inside, the Hoosiers must find a way to generate clean looks in the paint and at the rim.

While the Huskers don’t excel offensively on the glass or getting to the foul line, no Big Ten team utilizes the 3-point shot more. Nebraska ranks first in the league in percentage of its points generated from 3s (37.7). The Huskers also rank first in the league in percentage of field goals attempted from 3 at 43.6. Nebraska is shooting 37.7 percent on 3s against conference foes and 35.7 percent overall, which ranks 84th in the country.


The KenPom projection is Nebraska by six with a 30 percent chance of Indiana pulling off the upset.

While no official update has been given on the status of Trey Galloway, there doesn’t seem to be any optimism from Mike Woodson that he’ll be available in Minneapolis.

“I don’t know at this point,” Woodson said last night when asked if he hopes to have Galloway available to play. “I really don’t.”

That means the Hoosiers will likely be operating with a shortened rotation again on Friday. Indiana only played six guys in the second half on Thursday against Penn State with Anthony Leal, who hit the game-winner, the lone man off the bench over the final 20 minutes.

For Indiana to prevail, the Hoosiers are going to need to have a much better effort defensively.

Indiana held Penn State to 59 points on Thursday after surrendering an average of 85 to the Nittany Lions over two regular season contests. It’s not realistic to expect Indiana to hold Nebraska, which averages 76.8 points, to a similar number. But keeping the game in the 60s or low 70s gives Indiana its best chance to prevail.

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