BLOOMINGTON – Indiana was glad to be back home. That is, for at least the first four minutes tonight. The Hoosiers got off to one of their best starts of the season, racing out to a 13-4 lead before the first media timeout and getting the Assembly Hall crowd into an energetic mood from the opening tip. The Hoosiers ran good offense, rebounded and pushed the pace; it was the platonic ideal of what this Indiana team can be at its best.
Then, it all went south, quickly. Al Durham, who was terrific in the first half otherwise, made a bad decision, fouling Nebraska guard Dachon Burke as he went barreling toward the basket on the fast break. Burke scored despite the foul, leading coach Archie Miller to stamp his foot on the court repeatedly in frustration. A timeout followed and when Indiana returned to the court, four of the starters had been yanked from the game. Whatever message Miller was trying to send, it didn't work. The Cornhuskers embarked on a 12-0 run, one of their best stretches all season, while Indiana missed seven shots in a row and 9 of 10. A lineup that includes Damezi Anderson, Race Thompson and Armaan Franklin on the court together without Devonte Green is unlikely to put up big offensive numbers.
After one flurry from each team to start the game, it turned into a closely-contested matchup. Durham was a star for Indiana, running the offense with poise and getting to the basket on drives of his own more than once. His aggression on the fastbreak has been a huge source of offense for the Hoosiers this year and he's a creative finisher around the rim. He finished the first half with nine points, an assist and a block. He also played very good perimeter defense, forcing the Cornhusker guards into some difficult shots.
Where Indiana really ran into trouble was with its outside shooting. The Hoosiers got plenty of good looks from beyond the 3-point arc, but there seemed to be a lid on the rim for much of the half. Indiana made just 1 of its first 10 shots from beyond the arc (Durham was the only one to hit from the outside in the first 12 minutes of the game and his was Indiana's first attempt) and several of those shots chipped the paint. Meanwhile, after a slow start, Nebraska is shooting 45% from the field thanks to lapses from Indiana on defense. Miller is not going to be happy with his team at halftime, to say the least. The little details that make a good basketball team have been nearly non-existent in the first half.
One key for the Hoosiers in the second half to pull out a win tonight will be to get Trayce Jackson-Davis more involved. The freshman phenom has just three points on three shots in the first half. He's Indiana's best offensive player on the inside and he hasn't touched the ball nearly enough, especially since Nebraska really has no one who can check him. Beyond that, the Hoosiers just need to play a cleaner second half. This one was ugly.