After letting a few chances for quality road wins slip through their fingers early in conference play, the Huskers finally sealed the deal with a wire-to-wire win over No. 25 Indiana (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) at Assembly Hall on Monday evening.
The win was Nebraska’s first against a top-25 team on the road since the Huskers beat the 16th-ranked Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on Dec. 28, 2016.
Nebraska (13-4, 3-3) had four players score in double figures and six with seven or more thanks to a big boost off the bench by senior Tanner Borchardt.
Glynn Watson Jr. led the Huskers with 15 points including 12 in the second half. Isaac Copeland Jr. added 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting with eight rebounds before fouling out late. James Palmer Jr. turned the ball over five times and shot 5-of-12 from the field, but he still stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Isaiah Roby was limited to nine points and five rebounds in 24 minutes thanks to more foul trouble, but Borchardt picked up the slack with seven points on 3-of-4 from the field and 1-of-2 from the line with five rebounds and a steal. Borchardt was a team-best plus-16 in 17 minutes of action.
Nebraska out-rebounded Indiana 40 to 31 and won the second-chance points battle 12 to eight. The Huskers shot 45 percent for the game thanks to a second half above 50 percent and held Indiana to 36.5 percent including 2-of-14 from 3.
Indiana’s star duo of Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan combined for 35 points on 29 shots with five turnovers and no other Hoosier topped five points.
“I thought we did a good job getting to Romeo and Juwan, first of all, making them play in a crowd,” Coach Tim Miles said. “I thought we had to switch defenses on and off. Coach [Archie] Miller can really get you carved up when they get in a rhythm. We kept them out of transition for the most part. Getting off to an early lead was probably most important, getting the crowd out of the game. The way you win big road games, you play from the front and just hang on. We were able to stretch a little bit today. I thought our guys did a very good job with the game plan from the get-go.”
Nebraska couldn’t have asked for a better start, knocking down its first four shots from the field and forcing Indiana into five straight misses to force a quick Hoosier timeout with a 9-0 start.
After the break, Juwan Morgan put the Hoosiers on the board with a 3, then Romeo Langford dropped in a runner to make it 9-5. Nebraska locked in defensively even more from there, holding Indiana scoreless for nearly six minutes before Morgan snapped an 11-0 run with a put-back.
Watson responded with a 3 on the other end, then after a stop Borchardt, who was questionable for the game with a tooth issue and has a root canal scheduled for Tuesday, followed up a missed layup by Watson for a put-back to give Nebraska a 25-7 lead.
Nebraska went ice cold from there, missing 12 straight field goals and allowing Indiana to cut the lead down to six. Copeland finally ended the 13-1 Indiana run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Romeo Langford hit pair of free throws, but Palmer ended the half in emphatic fashion, driving the lane and throwing down a hammer dunk to give Nebraska 31-22 lead at the break.
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After finishing with just eight points and three rebounds in 38 minutes against Penn State, Copeland put up 10 points and grabbed five boards in the first half against the Hoosiers. Palmer added seven points, six rebounds and four assists as six of the eight Huskers who saw the floor found the scoring column. Roby got off to a good start with 7 quick points but picked up his second foul on a phantom call and was limited to just 10 minutes.
Nebraska out-rebounded Indiana 24 to 17 including eight to five on the offensive glass, leading to a 7-2 advantage in second chance points at the break. Nebraska held Indiana to 29.6 percent shooting (8-of-27) and forced seven turnovers but the Huskers weren’t a whole better on their end, shooting 39.4 percent (13-of-33) with seven giveaways of their own. Morgan’s 3-pointer that got the Hoosiers on the board was the only triple Indiana hit in the first half.
“You could see it affected us,” Miles said about the extended scoring drought. “At halftime I said, ‘you know, it’s okay to win with defense.’ We got off to such a hot start, there is a return to the mean. I think the turnovers bothered me more than the missed open shots. A couple of bad shots we can do on occasion. At the same time, I thought the guys handled it okay. I don’t know if there is a crisis of confidence with our guys, but this sure is a confidence builder.”
Roby picked up his third foul 1:45 into the second half, and the Hoosiers cut Nebraska’s lead down to six at 35-29, drawing a timeout from Coach Tim Miles at at the 17:14 mark. The Huskers turned the ball over twice in less than three minutes to open the half.
Palmer left a 3 well short out of the timeout and Devonte Green hit a deep one on the other end to cut the lead to three, but Palmer hit Borchardt with a pick-and-roll pocket pass for a layup then Watson drilled a 3-pointer a few possessions later. Palmer blew a wide open layup but grabbed the rebound and found Watson in the corner for 3 to push the lead back to 11.
After trading buckets a couple of times, Nebraska used a 7-2 run to push the lead to 14. The Hoosiers cut it to 10 with four-and-a-half minutes to play but could draw no closer as the Huskers stretched the lead back out with a 7-2 run to close out the game.
The Huskers will return home to face No. 6 Michigan State on Thursday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tipoff on FS1 is set for 7 p.m. CT.
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.