The Nebraska Cornhuskers upset the No. 16 Indiana Hoosiers on Wednesday night by a score of 87-83.
Yes. You read that correctly. The Cornhuskers marched into Assembly Hall and snapped IU’s 26-game home winning streak. Things could not have gone much worse for Indiana on Wednesday night.
The defending Big Ten champions came out extremely flat. No. It was not just a slow start. It was a complete disaster for the Indiana Hoosiers. Nebraska outplayed IU in every aspect of the game. The Hoosiers have no one to blame but themselves.
Everybody knows that Indiana can score the basketball. That is never going to be an issue as long as Tom Crean is coaching Indiana.
The Hoosiers came into Wednesday ranked No. 10 in the NCAA in scoring at 88.8 points per game. Scoring was not the problem against Nebraska on Wednesday night. It was the defense.
Sound familiar? It should. During the Crean era, the team has been heavily criticized for playing lackluster defense. Consequently that’s exactly the type of defense that the Hoosiers illustrated in Wednesday’s loss.
Nebraska entered Wednesday ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring at 69.2 points per game. The Cornhuskers also ranked last in the conference shooting just 29.1% from beyond the arc. Those numbers were shattered on Wednesday night in the win over the Hoosiers.
Hats off to Nebraska. They played an incredible game. Tai Webster stepped up for the Cornhuskers. The lone senior on the roster scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. Sophomore guard Glynn Watson Jr. had a big game for Nebraska as well. The 6-foot guard converted on four of his seven three-point attempts and tallied a game-high 26 points.
Webster and Watson combined for six of the nine Cornhusker three pointers in the win. Nebraska shot an impressive 50% from beyond the arc as it torched the Indiana defense. Nine made three pointers ties a season high for Nebraska. 87 points scored in a game is also a season high for Tim Miles’ team. As Dash’s teacher Bernie Kropp says, “Coincidence? I think not!”
Pathetic. This is an appropriate word to sum up Indiana’s defensive efforts on Wednesday night. When is this team going to step up and get a stop when they need it most? It sure did not happen against Nebraska.
The 2-3 zone that Indiana switched to early on in the first half was abysmal. The rotations were incredibly slow. The closeouts were nowhere to be found. Nebraska found the holes in the zone and shared the ball well. This all resulted in a great shooting night for the Cornhuskers.
What happens when teams shoot lights out against the Hoosiers? Losses. IPFW, Butler, and Nebraska shot 57.1%, 47.6% and 50% from three, respectively, in each of Indiana’s losses this year. Again, is this a coincidence? No. Indiana has no answer for when teams are shooting the ball well.
The solution is simple. Be better on the defensive end. Hoosier fans have been begging for this to happen for years. Easier said than done, but the Hoosiers must make the adjustment to the reoccurring theme that has given this program many issues over the years. Once this happens, Indiana has more than enough talent on its roster to be considered in the conversation for national contenders.
Maybe this is what it’s going to take for Tom Crean and the rest of the Indiana Hoosiers to open their eyes. Despite shooting 40% from three this season, Indiana does not have the shooting prowess that it had last season to rely on. Junior guards Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. have hit 32 and 39 threes respectively this season. A total of 71 of Indiana’s 128 made three-point field goals. After them, the next closest Hoosiers are O.G. Anunoby and Josh Newkirk with 13 triples apiece thus far.
Here’s the bottom line. If the Hoosiers continue to be lackadaisical on the defensive end, they are more than vulnerable. Turning the ball over 19 times and allowing teams to shoot 50% from three is not a recipe for success. And if a change is not made soon, Indiana will struggle this season in Big Ten play just as it did at home on Wednesday against Nebraska.
These are the types of losses that significantly hurt a résumé when Selection Sunday comes around. With all due respect to Nebraska, Indiana losing to a projected 6-12 team in the Big Ten in Assembly Hall is simply unacceptable.
The Hoosiers will go back to the drawing board as they will be tested once again on Saturday. Indiana looks to close out 2016 on a high note as it prepares to take on one of the toughest defensive teams in the country in No. 6 Louisville.