Indiana plays slow then fast in win over Nebraska

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana survived a painfully-slow first half with a 27-18 lead and then poured 49 points on Nebraska in the second half to run away with a 76-47 victory in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall.

The No. 1 Hoosiers opened the second half with a 7-0 run and went on a 15-2 run shortly thereafter to take a 54-30 lead and effectively bury the 11th-place Cornhuskers. The Hoosiers kept pouring it on and led by 31 with less than a minute to go before alate layup by Sergej Vucetic cut it under 29 points.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: IU sophomore center Cody Zeller only played 18 minutes because of foul trouble, but he still scored 16 points. He was 4-for-9 from the field, 8-for-11 at the line and had a steal and a fast-break dunk at at one point.

Senior forward Christian Watford continued a very consistent stretch with a double-double, posting 13 points and 11 rebounds, knocking down all six of his free throws. Nebraska didn’t make it easy for junior guard Victor Oladipo to find his offense, clogging the lanes to make it difficult for him to drive, but he hit a 3-pointer and also crashed the offensive glass for buckets and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Junior swingman Will Sheehey had nine points and point guards Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell had eight each with Hulls hitting a pair of 3-pointers and also dishing out three assists.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana was stymied on some level by Nebraska’s constrictive play in the first half, but the Hoosiers stayed patient, got the ball in the lane, drew fouls and defended well enough to keep their heads above water. They shot just 31.6 percent from the field in the first half (6-for-19), but they also shot 13-for-16 from the free throw line and held Nebraska to 7-for-17 shooting. The Hoosiers went more than 10 minutes without a field goal from the 18:59 mark in the first half to the 8:45 mark, but they only trailed 14-13 when Sheehey broke the streak with a left-handed layup.

The Hoosiers started to find an offensive rhythm toward the end of the first half, and when they started hitting 3’s in the second half, the offense was able to operate much more freely. The Cornhuskers packed the lane as tightly as they possibly could with as many men as they could to keep the Hoosiers from getting driving lanes and post touches, but the 3’s drew them out and made it easier to get looks in the paint. IU finished 16-for-29 from the field in the second half and 6-for-9 from the line while continuing to shoot a high mark at the free throw line, hitting 11 of 13 free throws to finish 24-for-29 for the game.

The Hoosiers also won the turnover battle big, turning it over just nine times and scoring 18 points off of Nebraska’s 15 giveaways. They allowed just one Cornhusker player, senior guard Dylan Talley, to score in double figures with 16 points. Junior guard Ray Gallegos, the team’s leading scorer for the season, shot just 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-10 from beyond the arc to finish with eight points.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN:This Indiana victory certainly didn’t surprise anybody. Nebraska is grossly overmatched talent-wise, Indiana was heavily favored, and pegged an Indiana victory as a 98 percent probability.

But this win could help the Hoosiers in almost the same way that inoculation helps fight disease. Nebraska is in a way, a weakened form of the Wisconsin virus. The Cornhuskers are in no way as good at playing the constrictive, grind-it-out game that the Badgers do. The Cornhuskers do it because they are low on talent and need a way to compete. Wisconsin does it as a program philosophy and has been recruiting players for decades to fit the system. But the fact remains that the Hoosiers had to keep their cool and composure and not force the issue against a team that wanted desperately to limit possessions. They waited for the right opportunity to get the pace going and took it.  Dictating tempo against Nebraska isn’t the same as dictating tempo against Wisconsin, but there are some ways in which the Hoosiers can use Wednesday’s performance as a model if they get Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament or another grind-it-out squad in the NCAA’s.


Tom Crean

“One thing we are trying to make sure that our team continually understands is that to win big, to win really big, you’ve got to be able to play a lot of different ways, and as much as we want to set the pace and tempo, sometimes — you don’t have to have patience — but you have got to wait for your opportunity and as long as you’re playing solid and as long as you’re sticking with what you know works, sometimes those opportunities come when you least expect it or they come when you force the temo just a little bit more defensively because you can. I think tonight was a little bit like that. We kept waiting for he game to go our way in the first half and nobody got discouraged or sped up to the point where we started forcing the action. We probably didn’t get it inside as much as we needed to in the first half, especially where we were in the bonus at the 10:53 mark. I thought we were playign really hard, really solid and just waiting for it ot break and in the second half, they did something about it even that much more. I think that’s the sign of a team that’s maturing and getting better. Like I said to them at halftime, when the score is low because a couple of the guys mentioned we only had X amount of points, we’re not trying to set records. We’re trying to win a National Championship.”

“We didn’t break down and take too many quick jump shots that led to easy baskets for them. We missed some shots, but the other big thing, and you know it as well as I know it, when we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a lot better. Every team can say that, but when you score the points that this team is scoring, when you have the offensive efficiency that they have, which is so highly ranked nationally with that, and you eliminate those turnovers, I don’t know what our points per possession was tonight, but I know it was really high, and they’re starting to really get that. (Graduate assistant) Seth Cooper did a phenomenal job of showing them the value of a turnover, not only to the other team, but how much it hurts us. We had that study for these guys the other day, when we don’t turn it over, we’re an eye-popping 1.47 points per possession That’s unbelievable.”

Christian Watford

“That’s just a big part of our offense, period. We don’t want to hang our hats on long jump shots. Any time we can get it in the paint and get some fouls, that’s great for our offense.”

Maurice Creek

On the 3’s opening up the offense

“I think it changed a lot. They do pack the lane, and when everybody started knocking down open shots, it opened the floor up for everybody.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Will Sheehey


  1. I know that NE plays slow, but that was still an impressive defensive performance by the Hoosiers. The stats are all there – 47 pts, 37% FG, 15 TO’s, 5 blocks, and only committed 12 fouls. But it was even more impressive with our top 6 players on the court. We held them to 18 Points in the first half and they had only 41 when we subbed with 3 minutes to go.

    I thought Dipo was phenomenal once again on defense. In the first 6 minutes he had directly created 4 TO’s without registering a steal. They came on a forced travel, getting a hand on a ball that led to a scramble and a kicked ball, forcing a pass that went directly out of bounds, and then took a charge. The charge call was huge because it gave their best big man, Ubel, his 2nd foul, forcing him to the bench, and ended up being the catalyst for an IU run that took them from down 3 to up 9 at half.

    Over the course of the game he managed to pick up 3 steals as well, but those first 6 minutes were a clinic in how to dominate a game from the defensive end or without ever touching the ball.

  2. Is it just me, or is anyone else just amazed every time Cody Zeller goes out to mid court, steals the ball from a guard and then takes it the length of the court for an easy dunk? Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone a 7′ center make such play before, EVER! But Zeller has done this numerous times, so it’s not an accident. His technique is excellent and of all the great things he does, those steals demonstrate his unique athletic ability.

    I was watching the game last night with a neighbor. He’s not an IU fan in particular, but he loves college basketball and he roots for IU when his favorite team, New Mexico, is not playing. When Zeller made that play, he just turned to me and exclaimed, “WOW. That’s Unbelievable!”

  3. Agree with you, Podunker…Then again, I marvel at the varied sets of athletic skills possessed by every guy on our roster…

    For all the crap Watford has taken, he shoots the ball in transition from the perimeter better than most guards in the Big 10. He’s only a couple inches shorter than Cody and has had assignments to guard smaller and superbly athletic combo guards/forwards…His irreplaceable versatility provides even more ammunition for the explosive highlight reel guys that get most the ‘future NBAer’ chatter.

    And I don’t believe we see anywhere near our current level of success(or the potentially deep tournament run success if we play up to our capabilities and play unselfishly) without the multiple offensive dynamics, defensive energy, penetration skills, elevated court coverage and court vision, that our standout freshman point guard, Yogi Ferrell, infuses into our team.

    No doubt that Oladipo and Cody provide more ‘wow factor’…But when it comes to integral pieces a dynamic team, and the impossibility to shut down one aspect our team without being vulnerable another threat, I still believe Yogi is the difference-maker that makes a six banner a closer reality within the unexpected twists and turns of hot and cold in an NCAA win or go home scenario.

    Exceptional point guard play is the “must have” to make it all look so nearly effortless at times.

  4. I know Geoff will blow his fountain pen over this…but I do believe the chances a great tournament run would be far less likely a current roster minus Ferrell than one without Oladipo. I believe Sheehey and Remy could fill the voids in offense and defense. I don’t think you fill the void losing the energize bunny point guard.

    Yogi is surprising a lot of those in the national media that did not foresee the steep curve of his progression. He plays with a maturity and poise that allows us to be so much more dangerous. And I ate my words completely when I said his major Achilles heel was his perimeter jumper. He has already buried some damn big shots this year. Not ready to call him Isiah, but the kid is far stronger and gifted than I ever imagined.

  5. Po – I’m gonna go all Harvard on you and do the I-told-ya-so thing… Do you believe me now that Cody is the best big man hedging defender in the last 30 years in college, and the best period since Kevin Garnett?

    The 3 things I’ve been touting several times over in the last year are:

    1) Dipo is a NBA player and the most impactful player on the team
    2) Jordy is a way better defender than he’s given credit… Because he is above average team defender and an exceptional transition defender
    3) Cody is the best defender of the high screen that I’ve ever seen at the college level

    I think those things are all proving to be true.

    IU recruiting note: Fischer just moved from outside the ESPN top 100 to #67. Telep was gaga over his performance against Diamond Stone.

    Speaking of great point guard play… I just saw that Vonleh’s teammate Travis Jorgenson just committed to Georgia Tech, for those of you interested and have been following my chronicles.

  6. And Jordy was a way better team defender last year than was ever given credit.

    And it’s why the Seth Davis piece was one of the most mean-spirited things ever put in print used to make a kid feel like he was only important as it pertained to the local ‘homer’ crowd.

    Take Hulls leadership and deadly marksmanship off the court and see how far we go.

    Hulls could end up with a bigger NBA career than Oladipo..Don’t bet against him.

  7. ^Undoubtedly the DUMBEST THING hillbilly has ever said.

    It’s obvious he is only trying to incite Geoff because the hick is jealous of Geoff’s BASKETBALL intellect.

    Hillbilly must have the lien on Dustin’s mortgage for him to get away with his crap.

    Great post Geoff.


    With your little dig aimed at me, I could tell you needed to feel loved…I know it’s not you know who1, but maybe it can provide you some solace.

  8. Geoff, I’m a bit confused by your question, “Do you believe me now that Cody is the best big man hedging defender in the last 30 years in college,….” To the best of my recollection, I never discussed or debated this subject with you or anyone else on this blog, so I’m not sure how the “I told you so” thing applies to me.

    Having said that, while I respect your opinion, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “hedging defender.” So let me just say this. Cody may be the best sophomore big man hedging defender in college in the last 30 years. Is he the best of all big men in the last 30 years? I think it is unfair to compare a sophomore, no matter how gifted he is, with big men that played through their senior years. If Cody had two more years in college (which I think we all agree is never going to happen), it is highly likely that he would become the best big man hedge defender to ever play college basketball.

    As for his defense in general, he has room to improve his defense in the paint (especially on in-bounds passes), primarily because he lacks the weight, strength and physical maturity, as a sophomore, to stop some of those big wide-bodied centers that outweigh him by 30 pounds. I’d also like to see him play with a little more nasty in him (a little Kent Benson attitude). But overall, I would not trade Cody for any other center in the college game right now. No one that I’ve seen this year can match his range of skills, his hustle, his unselfishness, and his BB IQ.

  9. Victor is boarding the train for the NBA..HOLA DEPOT!!

    We must win it all this year. Fear the golden arches basketball empire once again growing to the southeast. NBA fast food is a #1 combo at the Lexington drive-thru.

  10. Po – yeah, I don’t think anyone has ever really debated me on that point, but I’ve brought it up a couple times without much response either way. I wasn’t challenging you as much as looking for confirmation.

    By “hedging defender” I mean he steps out and “hedges” the ball-handler when his man sets a ball-screen. He does it without fouling, is consistently able to force the man further out, and occasionally gets steals. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him get split or seen a guard effectively turn the corner on him. It’s certainly unusual and rather miraculous that he is able to do that as well as he does.

    I absolutely agree with your last paragraph.

  11. Hasn’t Cody stated a thousand times he played point guard late junior high/early HS before his big growth spurt?
    Is it such a shocking revelation that he can ‘hedge.’

    What’s shocking is that he didn’t lose all those ball handling and ball defending skills when his body underwent the huge metamorphosis.

    His post play has shown big improvement of late…This hedge talk and ‘pat myself on the back’ BS is just another way Geoff’s is diverting from the worthlessness his other main Cody Doctrine of recent week where he was filling our ears with how Crean has slopped up the offense by not giving the green light to Cody to loft garbage from the 3-point line with some of his standstill NBA form.

    With the skills he has around the post, and free throw accuracy that put guys like Shaq and Howard to shame, his growing overall dominance has no need to be wasted taking himself 25 feet from the hoop(For what? He’ll be a high draft pick anyway. He doesn’t need to experiment with a shot he’s shown little confidence and now be defended by much more skilled athletes than he ever went against in 3A high school ball..If he’s wanting to experiment with a 3-point shot during close games? I’m all for it if he’s willing to stay at Indiana for two more years and a couple more banners..Then I’m all for it. Launch some throwaway bombs).

    I’m not too worried to be ‘hedging’ any bets that Cody is learning his way around dominating the paint and baseline enough that we’ll likely see a 3-pointer come with the same regularity a Hulls dunk.

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