Indiana has traveled to the edges of the Big Ten this week in its search for its first road victory of the season. It didn't find one in the East, falling to Rutgers 59-50 on Wednesday. Today, it will go to the conference's westernmost point – Lincoln, Nebraska – to try to snap a three-game road skid with a win over the Cornhuskers.
As has been the case so often lately, Indiana's fate might hinge on whether its jump shot makes the trip. The Hoosiers played decent defense against Rutgers, but they did not make a shot outside the paint in the game's first 34 minutes and finished 2 for 19 from 3-point range.
“Obviously we've got to shoot better as a team,” forward Jerome Hunter said. “I mean, I don't remember the last game we had like (Rutgers) where we just could not hit a shot.”
In its three true road games this season, the Hoosiers are shooting 21.6% from 3-point range. Hunter emphasized the poor shooting is not related to a lack of work on jumpers in practice.
“I think as we keep shooting them every day and as we keep playing more games, I think eventually, they're going to have to start falling,” the redshirt freshman said. “Because we keep shooting them every day, and (coach) Archie (Miller) really emphasizes in practice that you need to start making shots if you want to win big games.”
The Cornhuskers visited Assembly Hall in December for a game that was close throughout and went into overtime before the Hoosiers prevailed 96-90. Indiana has not scored more than 66 points in a game since.
Part of the reason for the offensive regression is that freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has appeared to hit a wall in recent weeks. Jackson-Davis, the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball, had a monster game against the Cornhuskers, tallying 25 points and 15 rebounds, but in the last four games he has averaged just 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds on 46.4% shooting.
Those aren't bad numbers, but they're pedestrian compared to what the 6-foot-9 Center Grove graduate was posting earlier this season.
“To me, we've got to get Trayce back to being himself,” Miller said. “Starts with his everyday habits. Continuing to work to get better, but make no mistake, he's one of the best players in this league overall, not just as a freshman, and he's an important part to what we do.
“When you're an important part to what we do, you have to be there, mind, body, mentality, the whole deal.”
Miller met with Jackson-Davis on Thursday, after the freshman struggled in a 4-point, 6-rebound performance against the Scarlet Knights. Miller declined to go into details on the discussion, but it was seemingly aimed at emphasizing how much Jackson-Davis means to the team.
“At the end of the day, he can't settle for anything other than his best, and when he does that, at the end of the day, he's going to be successful,” Miller said of Jackson-Davis. “We'll keep working to be better and he's got to continue to get better, but he's got so much ability and he's got so much talent that when he's engaged, he just impacts the game a lot of different ways.”
In the first matchup with Nebraska, the Hoosiers had trouble defending the Cornhuskers on the perimeter. Wings Dachon Burke Jr. and Haanif Cheatham combined for 46 points, while point guard Cam Mack had 15 points and 10 assists.
Indiana at Nebraska
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Neb.
Records: Indiana (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten), Nebraska (7-10, 2-4)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM