Nebraska entered Friday’s game against Indiana with just eight scholarship players, only seven of whom have been in the rotation, thanks to an indefinite suspension laid down for starting guard Jervay Green earlier in the day.
Even so, the Huskers went toe-to-toe with a Hoosiers team that went 11 deep for 40 minutes (and then some) before running out of gas as Nebraska fell at Assembly Hall 96-90 in overtime.
Four Huskers played at least 40 minutes led by sophomore point guard Cam Mack who never left the floor. Nebraska shot 44% from the field, 37.5% from 3 and 66.7% from the free-throw line. The Huskers (4-6, 0-1 Big Ten) dished out 19 assists on 33 field goals and turned the ball over just nine times.
“That ball was flying around,” Hoiberg said. “We had great ball movement, great player movement, we were back-cutting when they got out and pressured us. Guys were playing for each other for the entire 45 minutes tonight.
“The difference was the size and strength of Indiana’s front line in the paint. We tried to do everything we could to stay in front, to keep them out of it, to help on the back side and then try to find a way to secure the rebound. We had some good defensive possessions where we just could not dig out the tough rebound. That’s what they do, that’s Indiana’s game — they try to beat you up and make it a brawl.”
Indiana (10-1, 1-0 Big Ten) only hit five of its 25 3-point attempts but scored 52 points in the paint and shot 27of-38 from the foul line. The Huskers limited Indiana on the offensive glass in the first half but the Hoosiers’ size won out in the second as Indiana finished with a 19-11 edge in offensive rebounds and a 26-10 advantage in second-chance points.
Highly-touted freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis exploded in the second half to post career-highs with 25 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 7-of-11 from the foul line and 15 rebounds. Junior forward Justin Smith had a double-double as well with 16 and 10. Sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee, who missed five games and only played 13 minutes in Indiana’s last game, added 16 points and four assists in 26 minutes.
“You can see [Phinisee] is kind of the heart and soul of this thing with that team with his poise and the way he plays … His ability to guard, his ability to make the right play, getting him back in the lineup was huge for Indiana and as long as he’s in there running the show they’ve got bright days ahead.”
For Nebraska, junior guard Dachon Burke Jr. scored a season-high 25 points on 9-of-16 from the field, 4-of-8 from 3 and 3-of-4 from the line in 40 minutes. Senior guard Haanif Cheatham added 21 points on 7-of-15 from the field and 5-of-6 from the stripe, six rebounds and three assists in 41 minutes. For the third straight game, junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson, who started in Green’s absence, produced a new career-high with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting including 3-of-5 from deep in 41 minutes.
Mack recorded his second double-double of the season with 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting and 10 assists, joining Lance Jeter as the only Huskers in the last 30 years with multiple point-assist double-doubles. Freshman forward Yvan Ouedraogo played a career-high 33 minutes and just missed his own double-double with nine points and 10 boards, but he only shot 4-of-11 from the field and 1-of-4 from the line.
Nebraska got off to a nightmare start, hitting just one of its first five shots and turning the ball over in the backcourt for an easy Indiana score. An alley-oop in transition to Smith put the Hoosiers up 11-2 and drew a quick timeout from Hoiberg.
The break seemed to settle the Huskers down. They got a post touch for Ouedraogo and he dropped in a hook, but Indiana center Joey Brunk got him back on the other end with an up-and-under. Nebraska’s defense locked in from there, holding Indiana scoreless for nearly three-and-a-half minutes as Nebraska used a 10-0 to take a 16-13 lead. Burke scored six of those points himself with a three-point play and a 3-point shot.
The lead changed hands three times before Mack hit a 3 at the shot-clock buzzer to tie it up at 21-all. After trading buckets, Nebraska got layups from Burke and Cheatham to take its largest lead of the half at 27-23. Indiana fired back with a 3-pointer Phinisee, but Ouedraogo showed off some dexterity, driving in and avoiding a waiting defender to finish off the glass.
Brunk scored four straight to take the lead back for Indiana, but a 5-1 run from Thorbjarnarson made it 34-31 Nebraska with just over four minutes to play in the half. Nebraska went cold from the floor after that as Indiana used a 9-2 run (the 2 coming at the free-throw line) to pull ahead 40-36. Mack pulled Nebraska out of its slump with a 3 and the Huskers got a stop to head into the locker room down 40-39.
After the 1-for-5 start, the Huskers shot 50% the rest of the half, though they were only 4-of-13 from 3. Indiana shot 43.8% overall including 3-of-13 from 3 but the Hoosiers took 10 more free throws than Nebraska, making four more. Points in the paint and second-chance points were even.
The Huskers held Jackson-Davis, Indiana’s leading scorer, to two points on 1-of-3 shooting in the first half. Indiana made sure to pound it into him early and often in the second half, though, as he scored the Hoosiers’ first six points of the half. Nebraska responded with a 3 from Mack and a layup from Cheatham to take its first lead of the second half at 49-46.
The Hoosiers countered with a 9-2 run to take the lead and they played from ahead the rest of the game. This time, however, Nebraska responded well to adversity and managed to stay within one or two scores over the next seven minutes of game time.
Indiana tried to deliver the knockout blow with a 6-0 run that made it 71-63 with just over four minutes to play. Hoiberg burned a timeout Indiana hit 71 and when the Huskers returned to the floor, they cut the deficit down to three with eight points in 90 seconds — a 3 and a layup from Thorbjarnarson and a steal and slam by Burke.
Indiana pushed it back to six, but Cheatham hit two free throws with 40 seconds left and Indiana threw the ensuing in-bound pass away. Nebraska took possession and got the ball into Burke and he created space and stepped back for a 3-pointer, hitting the shot and drawing a foul. He missed the free throw and Nebraska sent Damezi Anderson to the foul line after the rebound, and Anderson hit both to push it back to three.
Jackson-Davis switched onto Mack and the shifty point guard froze him with a hesitation and blew by for the layup with 13.1 to go. Nebraska fouled again, and Phinisee hit both to make it a three-point game again. Nebraska put the ball in Mack’s hands and ran Burke through some off-ball action and Mack found him on the come-back for an open look which he buried with 1 second to go.
Dachon Burke Jr.'s 3 to send the game to overtime. Great action to get him open. pic.twitter.com/cm1uZPXRo0
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) December 14, 2019
The Hoosiers didn’t get a shot off before the buzzer, sending the game to overtime tied at 82-82. Burke and Jackson-Davis scored 17 apiece in the second half. Indiana shot 12-of-19 inside the arc and 15-of-19 from the foul line but only 1-of-10 from 3. Nebraska shot 44.4% overall including 6-of-16 from 3 but only 5-of-9 from the foul line. The Hoosiers converted 10 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points but Nebraska cancelled that out by turning nine Indiana turnovers in 13 points the other way while giving it away just twice themselves.
Indiana scored the first six points of the overtime period, five of which were from Phinisee, and Hoiberg called timeout less than two minutes in. Out of the break, Thorbjarnarson hit another 3-pointer. Phinisee got to the rack for a layup but Cheatham responded with a 3 of his own to make it a two-point game with 2:14 to play.
Phinisee went for the dagger 3 and came up empty but the Huskers weren’t able to secure the board as Just Smith corralled it. The Hoosiers got the ball to Jackson-Davis in the mid-post with the shot clock running down and he turned over his left shoulder and sank a 14-footer. Mack found Ouedraogo all alone under the basket but the 17-year-old wasn’t able to finish. Jackson-Davis scored an easy two inside on the other end with 35 seconds left and Nebraska ran out of time.
Indiana came up empty on its first possession of overtime but scored on its last six and the short-handed Husker just couldn’t keep up.
“If we go out and play with that kind of effort, we’re going to have a chance to win a lot of games this year … I thought we grew in a big way as a team tonight and that’s what it’s all about for our team is continuing to take steps in the right direction, put ourselves in a position to win,” Hoiberg said.
Nebraska will have a quick turnaround as Purdue is traveling to Lincoln for a Sunday afternoon meeting. Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 3 p.m. on BTN.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.