The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, December 04, 2021 2:10 pm

Indiana beats Nebraska, 68-55, in Big Ten opener

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – Race Thompson posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Indiana bounced back from an early 10-point deficit to win coach Mike Woodson's Big Ten debut, defeating Nebraska 68-55 at Assembly Hall this afternoon. 

3 Takeaways

  • Turnovers remain a problem: Indiana talked a lot about its desire to cut down on turnovers after 26 giveaways likely cost the Hoosiers their game against Syracuse on Tuesday. They came into the game 19th-worst in the country in turnovers, giving the ball away 16.9 times per contest. That was a significant issue again against the Cornhuskers today as the Hoosiers committed 15 miscues, including 11 in the first half. The biggest culprit in those numbers were post entry feeds and kick-out passes from the post, both of which Nebraska tipped or stole on a regular basis. As Woodson said after the game against Syracuse, when those passes were also a significant problem, it's an area the Hoosiers have the ability to clean up with enough practice. It seems there wasn't enough time to clean it up before this afternoon. Trayce Jackson-Davis gave the ball away four times and struggled with post traps for the second straight game, though he was turnover-free in the second half. He draws so much attention from opposing defenses that kick-out passes from him are going to be a huge part of IU's offense. They have to be crisp and they haven't been recently.
  • Nebraska is not good: The Cornhuskers are a Big Ten team, but this was not a Big Ten-level game for the Hoosiers. Nebraska has finished at the bottom of the league in each of the last two seasons and from what I saw today, it would not surprise me at all if the Cornhuskers made it three years in a row in the cellar. Nebraska is essentially the 2020-21 Indiana team without a star like Jackson-Davis in the middle. The Cornhuskers went 5 of 22 from 3-point range after coming into the game 22nd-worst in the nation in that category and some of their misses were so bad they chipped the paint. They shot just 38% from the field overall and star guards Bryce McGowens and Alonzo Verge combined to go just 9 for 27. That's against a team in Indiana that has generally struggled to contain good guard play. Bottom line: Nebraska's building process remains in the early stages.
  • Indiana finally has enough shooting: For much of the Archie Miller Era, my contention was Indiana did not need to be a good 3-point shooting team. With stars such as Romeo Langford and then Trayce Jackson-Davis in the fold, it only needed to be passable enough to open holes for those players to create. But the Hoosiers couldn't even reach that low bar and their offenses under Miller were extremely limited as a result. Indiana doesn't have a good shooting team in its first year under Woodson, but it appears to have enough shooting to keep teams honest. The Hoosiers went 8 for 22 from beyond the 3-point line today, hitting a few when Nebraska collapsed on the paint in transition or doubled Jackson-Davis or Thompson. Tamar Bates was the star in that area, going 3 for 7 from beyond the arc, hitting all three of his 3s in a four-minute stretch late in the first half as the Hoosiers surged in front. Parker Stewart then added back-to-back 3s midway through the second half that helped the Hoosiers gain real separation for the first time. Again, competent shooting is a fairly low bar, but for the first time in five years, Indiana seems capable of clearing it.

Player of the Game: Race Thompson 

Thompson was an all-around menace on the interior for Indiana, getting his hands on a number of rebounds he had no business being near through sheer want-to. He went 5 of  9 from the field and, after committing seven turnovers in the loss to Syracuse, had two assists and no turnovers today. The fifth-year senior also provided the highlight of the afternoon when he threw down a one-handed put-back dunk on the head of a Nebraska defender despite being somewhat out of position. Thompson finished with his third double-double of the season and second in a row.

Tip-Ins

Indiana has won five straight against Nebraska, including a 4-0 mark against third-year Cornhuskers coach Fred Hoiberg. ... Hoiberg and Woodson are both former NBA players and head coaches, making it the first time two such coaches have faced off in a Big Ten game. ... Indiana assistant coach Kenya Hunter was on staff at Nebraska for five seasons under previous coach Tim Miles. ... Both teams were coming off multi-overtime losses in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge: the Hoosiers dropped a double-overtime game against Syracuse 112-110, while Nebraska fell to NC State 104-100 in quadruple-overtime. ... Jackson-Davis's 14 points moved him past Marshall Strickland and Troy Williams and into a tie with Victor Oladipo for 42st on the all-time IU scoring list. He added seven rebounds and shot 5 of 11 from the field. ... Bates scored a career-high 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting. ... Indiana won the rebounding battle 41-32. ... The Hoosiers went 14 of 17 at the foul line, including 11 straight makes to open the game. ... Verge led Nebraska with 15 points. 

What's Next?

Indiana will be back in action Wednesday when it travels to the Kohl Center in Madison to take on No. 23 Wisconsin (6-1), the Hoosiers' first ranked opponent of the Mike Woodson Era. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. The Kohl Center has been a house of horrors for the Hoosiers since it opened in 1998: Indiana has lost 18 straight in Madison. The Badgers boast a win over then-No. 12 Houston and face Marquette this afternoon.

dsinn@jg.net


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