Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Looking to Build off Creighton Win as they Head to No. 14 Indiana

December 06, 2022

Nebraska secured its biggest win of the season — and perhaps of the Fred Hoiberg era — on Sunday afternoon as the Huskers took down then-No. 7 Creighton in Omaha for the first time since 2004.

At 8 a.m. Monday morning, they were back on the practice court preparing for the next on. There’s no time to dwell on success in the midst of the stretch Nebraska finds itself in with three straight ranked opponents.

“I talked to them about the importance of enjoying when you get a big win like that, but then being able to put it behind you quickly, have two days of prep,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Really, the first day was putting in the game plan, getting some guys some conditioning that needed it, and then today we went hard and had a good physical practice.”

The team celebrated freely at the end of the game and in the locker room afterward, but Hoiberg said the bus ride back down I-80 was filled with sleeping players and coaches watching film with just two days before a trip to Bloomington to take on No. 14 Indiana.

“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves with that win and be fat and happy,” senior Emmanuel Bandoumel said. “You never want to be fat and happy. You want to keep working every day, keep bringing that energy every time. It’s great for us, we want to use that momentum to go to the next game, but we understand that it has to be a standard. We cannot just go with one win and then lose the next 10 games. We actually have to set the standard of we got this win, it’s a good win, but let’s move on and get that next one. It’s all about the next one.”

Hoiberg said the Creighton win was the kind of early-season confidence booster that the team wasn’t able to secure the past few years and it was especially important with where it falls on the calendar, heading into the team’s early Big Ten games against two more ranked opponents. The first of those will be all about toughness, according to Hoiberg.

“That’s what Indiana does, that’s what they hang their hat on,” Hoiberg said. “It’s a very good rebounding team, very physical, really get up and underneath you defensively and have great length, so it’s going to be a tough challenge. Their last home game against North Carolina was very, very impressive with what they were able to do to take them out of any type of rhythm and just play with great physicality and toughness. So it’s a great opportunity for our team and we’ll see what we’re made of.”

Hoiberg said he thought this team had “some toughness and grit to them” when he put the roster together and began going through offseason workouts, and those traits revealed themselves on Sunday in Omaha. Nebraska held a high-powered Creighton offense to 53 points and never gave up an extended run of points to the Bluejays.

“To be able to withstand runs in that building, that is not easy to do with the firepower that they have on that roster,” Hoiberg said. “So as much as anything the other night, I just thought we were able to withstand and handle adversity well, and we’re going to face that again in Assembly Hall. It’s an incredible venue, great arena, a ton of history in that building and they’re filling it right now, and it’s as loud as any when that thing’s full … We have to find a way early to withstand a run and match energy and I thought we did that early in the Creighton game and then we were able to dictate tempo for the rest of that night.”

Indiana opened the season with seven straight wins — including victories over Xavier and North Carolina — before suffering a 63-48 setback at Rutgers on Saturday. The Hoosiers scored 80-plus in their first six points and put up 77 against the Tar Heels before stubbing their toe against the Scarlet Knights and are 27th in the country in adjusted offensive defensive efficiency according the KenPom. They’re even better on defense as the Musketeers are the only team to top 70 points against them. Indiana is 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Hoosiers are 10th in opposing effective field goal percentage (42%), 10th in shot-blocking rate (16%) and 66th in opposing turnover rate (21.7%).

“They’re really physical,” Bandoumel said. “I think their defensive rating is really good; I think they’re like ranked 20th in the whole nation. So they are ready physical, they chase everything, they chase guys around. They will foul, they will hack … It’s all about playing through contact. Especially in that paint, they’ve got one of the best players maybe in the nation. If we can control the paint and make sure that he gets everything hard, we’ll do out job. But pretty physical, a good team, well coached, they’ve got really good sets and they play inside-outside, so they’re a really good team.”

The inside portion of that attack starts with Trayce Jackson-Davis, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound All-Big Ten big man who is averaging 18.3 points on 67.5% shooting, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. In six career games against the Huskers, Jackson-Davis has five double-doubles and is averaging 17.6 points, 12.5 rebounds (2.8 offensive) and 2.5 blocks while shooting 59.4% from the field and 62.5% from the free-throw line (on 8.0 attempts per game).

“He just keeps coming back,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a heck of a player and you talk about some of the great players over the years and taking away their dominant hand and they still find a way to get to it. He’s so good at getting to that left hand, whether he goes right off the catch, he has really quick spin move, or if he goes right, he’s going to find a way to get back to that left hand. He’s added a right over the last couple years but he still finds a way to get back to that left hand …You’ve just got to go out and try to make it as tough as possible knowing that he’s going to make tough shots. It’s impossible for our team to simulate what he does, but we just have to go out there and try to make it as difficult as possible.”

Super senior point guard Xavier Johnson, a one-time Nebraska commit and former Pittsburgh Panther, is leading the perimeter attack with 11.8 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 49.2% from the field including 47.4% from 3 on just 2.4 attempts per game. Former Northwestern sharp-shooter Miller Kopp is averaging 9.0 points and shooting 52.9% on 4.3 3-point attempts per game in his second season as a Hoosier. Highly-touted freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino is chipping in 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists, but he missed the Rutgers game with an injury.

Tipoff at Assembly Hall is set for 7:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday on Big Ten Network with Kevin Kugler and Stephen Bardo on the call.

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