Nebraska’s last win over a ranked squad on the road came on Dec. 28, 2016 against none other than Indiana. Since then, the Huskers were 0-7 in road games against ranked opponents, according to ESPN’s Stats and Info. That streak is broken. Husker head coach Tim Miles should send Indiana a fruit basket.
The Huskers (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) started hot, then went cold, then powered their way to a 66-51 win over No. 25 Indiana (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten).
Here are three takes from the win.
Root Canal Game
According to the FS1 broadcast, reserve center Tanner Borchardt needs a root canal. Tooth pain started Sunday night and Monday morning was spent at the dentist’s office.
But Borchardt powered through. Along with wing Nana Akenten, the Nebraska bench has really only had two contributors. Losing Borchardt would leave the Huskers with freshman big Brady Heiman — more a four-man than a five — to try and contend with Indiana’s star senior forward Juwan Morgan.
Sources say that would have been an issue.
But Borchardt played. So, no issue. And boy did he play his tail off. In 17 minutes off the bench, the senior had seven points, five boards (two on the offensive glass, both of which led to points) and one charge drawn. He got Morgan his third foul of the evening with that charge, too.
With how heavily Nebraska relies on its starting five for pretty much everything, the bench lineups just need to eat minutes and buy time for the starters. Well, Borchardt had the best plus-minus of anyone on the floor (plus-16).
Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. was solid yet again against Indiana (he had 26 points the last time the Huskers played at IU), finishing with 15 points, and James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland both hit double-digits, but give Borchardt the game ball.
You need non-star contributors to step up big in games like this, and Borchardt stepped up. Michael Jordan’s got nothing on Borchardt. (Please don’t stop reading.)
Harder Than It Needed to Be, But Sweeter Because of It
Nebraska opened a road contest with a ranked Big Ten opponent up 9-0. Then the Huskers were up 25-7.
Leading up to Monday’s meeting with the Hoosiers, the Huskers had given up shooting performances of 52, 47 and 46 percent in road conference matchups. When the Huskers have gone on the road, the defense hasn’t come with.
But the second-best shooting team in all of Division I basketball missed 15 of its first 18 shots at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana, and Nebraska was in a position to seriously end a game before the half. A 20-point lead is fine but you’re a 7-0 run away from feeling a little uncomfortable. Keep your foot on the gas and build a 25-point lead at the half? Or a 30? That’s music to sportswriters’ ears everywhere. (Blowouts mean stories are done earlier… It’s great.)
And then Nebraska just decided to forget how to play offense. Pull-up jumpers early in the shot clock, contested off-balance looks and a slew of turnovers kept the lead from growing.
Nebraska missed 12 straight shots and closed the final nine minutes of the first half shooting 3-for-16. Indiana got back within six points and only trailed by nine at the half after shooting 30 percent from the floor.
Indiana got it down to three early in the second half. Maybe fans at home were thinking “Here we go again.” The crowd for Indiana was certainly back in the game.
Then Nebraska closed.
Watson had 12 of his points in the second half alone. Guard Thomas Allen Jr. hit two big triples and put up eight in the second half (10 for the game). The offense never went more than two minutes without scoring and the defense forced misses on six of the Hoosiers final seven shots.
There’s confidence to be gained from simply winning on the road against a ranked team, but after blowing a big lead early, it’s got to feel good to close things out the way the Huskers did.
A Statement Win
Closing the way they did was important, too, because psychologically Nebraska needed this one.
The Huskers hadn’t yet won a road contest in league play. It had a second-half lead against Minnesota and lost by seven. They lost an uber-competitive road contest with Maryland then followed that up with a humbling at the hands of Iowa.
The talk was of a team that couldn’t win on the road. Of a team that wasn’t rising in big games when it needed to.
Back against the wall, Nebraska rose when it needed to and picked up another key victory for the résumé as it marches towards the NCAA Tournament. Indiana, powered by Morgan (who finished with 17 points and eight boards) and freshman Romeo Langford (18 points and six boards), likely won’t crater the same way some of Nebraska’s “signature” wins did last season.
When it comes time to decide who gets into the Tournament, the committee looks at who you beat, but it also looks heavily at where you beat them. Winning this one on the road could prove huge when March rolls around.
Plus, it gives Nebraska back-to-back wins heading home to welcome in No. 6 Michigan State (15-2, 6-0 Big Ten) on Thursday. Tip from Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 7 p.m. CT.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.