Days removed from a win over a top 25 team, Indiana’s NCAA tournament hopes took a serious blow Sunday with a 67-64 loss at Nebraska.
Junior point guard Tyra Buss led the Hoosiers (18-9, 8-6 Big Ten) with 16 points, and junior forward Amanda Cahill finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Seniors Karlee McBride and Alexis Gassion each produced 12 points.
But, in the end, the Hoosiers couldn’t separate from the Cornhuskers (6-20, 2-12) after a poor start. IU trailed 17-8 after one period, hitting 3-of-16 from the field. The second quarter was quite the opposite; the Hoosiers hit 9-of-16 from the field and used an 11-0 run to pull to within one point, 31-30, at halftime.
McBride, who reentered the starting lineup Sunday, hit 3-of-4 from 3 in the first half.
The stark differences between the first and second quarters could be found in the first five minutes and the second five minutes of the third. An 8-0 run for IU, capped by a Cahill 3, put the Hoosiers up 46-39. But a 10-2 run to end the period allowed the Huskers to stay up one point through three quarters.
With the game tied at 58-all, McBride and Nebraska freshman Hannah Whitish traded 3s. Whitish hit another jumper with 1:03 left. On the next possession, Buss hit 1-of-2 free throws to keep the Hoosiers behind. Nebraska broke IU’s press and got a wide-open layup from Allie Havers with 25 seconds left to go up three.
Buss answered with a quick layup with 18 seconds left, but, again, the Huskers were able to get the ball down the court to Havers to seal a win.
Sunday’s loss puts IU in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten with Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State. IU finishes its regular season with Iowa at home, and then Illinois on the road. The top four teams in the conference get a double bye during the Big Ten tournament.
Nebraska came into the game ranked 199th in RPI, with its only Big Ten win coming against Rutgers. IU was ranked at No. 40. As beneficial as Thursday’s win over No. 20 Michigan may have been for IU’s NCAA tournament resume, this loss could hurt more.