Photo Credit: John Peterson

Huskers Shooting Comes Up Short in 68-55 Loss in Bloomington

December 04, 2021

Nebraska put together its best defensive effort of the season, but the Huskers couldn’t do enough on the other end in a 68-55 loss at Indiana early on Saturday.

The Huskers (5-3) held All-Big Ten big man Trayce Jackson Davis — who scored 74 points in his previous two games — to 14, eight points below his average, while Indiana shot just 40.5% from the field with 15 turnovers.

The numbers were even uglier on Nebraska’s side, though. Alonzo Verge Jr. was the only Husker in double figures with 15 points. The team shot 37.7% from the field, attempted just five free throws and turned the ball over 14 times.

“Halfcourt defense was the best it’s been all year,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said during his post-game radio interview. “That’s something, certainly, we can build off of. I thought we rebounded the ball well. We hung in there when that ball wasn’t going in. I think we were one for our first 16 [from 3] and had some good looks. Unfortunately, they just weren’t falling. Whether it was legs not being back from the other night or whatever it was, but we just could not convert when we had opportunity and had open looks, which obviously it could have been a different outcome had that happened.

“But proud of the guys for hanging in there. I thought our effort was there today, especially on that defensive end, and that’s the step we really needed to take, a positive step in the right direction.”

The Huskers hit a few 3s late to finish 5-of-22 overall, their sixth game of 25% or worse from 3. Indiana hit three more triples on the same number of attempts, shooting a respectable 36.4%. Hoiberg moved Keisei Tominaga into the starting lineup after the JUCO sharpshooter had hit 10 3s in his previous two games, but he shot just 1-of-5 from deep and 2-of-7 overall in 21 minutes.

Verge led the Huskers in scoring, but he also turned the ball over six times. The Huskers finished with just nine assists on 23 buckets. Derrick Walker saw his streak of consecutive double-figure scoring games end at five with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, though part of that was foul trouble.

“We pounded the ball too much, got back to that after I think averaging 18 assists over the last five,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve just got to get that thing moving.”

Nebraska couldn’t have asked for a better defensive start as the Hoosiers missed nine of their first 11 shots and turned the ball over six times. That allowed the Huskers to jump out to a 14-4 lead.

Indiana eventually settled in as the bench provided a spark. The Hoosiers took advantage of multiple Nebraska scoring droughts to take a 23-20 lead with a pair of 7-0 runs. A bucket from Eduardo Andre pulled the Huskers within one with just under three minutes to play in the half, but Indiana answered with a tough leaning 3 from freshman Tamar Bates late in the shot clock.

Neither team scored the rest of the way, shooting a combined 0-of-7 from the field, and Indiana took a 26-22 lead into the locker room.

“Part of it was we were missing shots, and a couple of them were bad shots and that led to transition opportunities,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what happens when you don’t have a good possession, which I thought we had great possessions to start the game and then they got back into it with a couple transition opportunities. Turnovers, they scored 21 points; 14’s not a horrible number, but they converted on them. When we had then in the half court, I thought we were as good as we’d been all year, and again, that’s something we can build on.”

Bates led everyone with 11 points on 4-6 from the field including 3-of-5 from 3. The rest of the Hoosiers shot 7-of-24 as Nebraska held the Hoosiers to 36.7% from the field with 11 turnovers. The Huskers limited Jackson-Davis to four points on five shots and four turnovers.

Bryce McGowens and Verge combined for 14 points, but it took them 16 shots and the rest of the Huskers totaled just eight points on 4-of-14 shooting as Nebraska shot 30% from the field including 1-of-10 from deep.

Foul trouble popped up for both teams as Indiana point guard Xavier Johnson and Nebraska’s Walker both picked up their third foul before the under-16 media timeout. The Hoosiers scored a quick five points to push the lead to seven, then a Jackson-Davis and-one pushed it to eight, then Indiana put together a 7-0 run to take its largest lead yet at 43-30.

Indiana’s Race Thompson, who finished with a double-double of 11 points and 11 boards, put an exclamation point on the run with a tip-slam over the top of Lat Mayen.

The Huskers threw out a zone to try to disrupt Indiana and it worked briefly as the Huskers used a 6-0 run to cut the deficit down to seven. However, Indiana settled in and Parker Stewart hit a pair of 3s during an 8-0 run to push the lead to 15.

Nebraska made one last push as a 3-pointer from C.J. Wilcher, Nebraska’s second of the game, capped a 7-0 run and cut it to seven again with six minutes to play. Four straight from Jackson-Davis pushed the lead back to double figures, however, and it stayed there the rest of the way.

Indiana shot 4-of-10 from 3 and 14-of-17 from the foul line in the second half as Jackson-Davis got loose for 10 points. The Huskers hit four of their last six 3-point attempts, but it was too little and too late to change the outcome. McGowens went 0-for-5 from the field and didn’t score after halftime to finish with eight points.

“The reality is we had two very difficult games on the road and after playing that four-overtime, getting back in the middle of the night and finding a way to muster up energy to compete when the ball wasn’t going into the hoop is something that we can certainly build,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding. I thought we had a lot of good looks but then we got too dribble-happy out there and we’ve got to fix that, which we will in the next couple days of practice.”

The Huskers will return home to host Michigan on Tuesday before diving back into nonconference play next weekend.

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