Indiana drops second game in Lincoln in three years

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana squandered a 16-point first-half lead to fall 60-55 to Nebraska in front of 15,107 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

The Hoosiers fell to 13-8 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten. Nebraska improved to 11-9, 3-5.

The Hoosiers went on a 15-0 run to take a 32-16 advantage with two minutes to go in the first half. Indiana still led 40-29 with 16:38 to go in the game, but that advantage disappeared quickly. Nebraska’s Terran Petteway drilled a 3-pointer, which was quickly followed by a four-point play by Gallegos, who hit a three and drew a foul from Indiana sophomore swingman Jeremy Hollowell. That made it 40-36, and a free throw by forward Shavon Shields and a jumper by Petteway made it 40-39.

A pair of free throws by Nebraska point guard Tai Webster tied the game 43-43, then after Indiana took a 46-43 lead, Nathan Hawkins’ 3-pointer tied it. Shields made a pair of free throws and Walter Pitchford hit a 3-pointer as part of an 8-0 run that gave Nebraska a 51-46 advantage. The Cornhuskers would never trail again.

Four free throws by IU senior forward Will Sheehey cut the deficit to 51-50, but a layup by Shields and another 3-pointer by Pettway made it 56-50 with 2:04 to go, which effectively began desperation mode. Ferrell cut the deficit to 58-55 with 48 seconds left, but Robinson missed a chance to make it a two-point game by missing two free throws with 30 seconds left. A free throw by Pitchford made it 60-55 with 28 seconds left and Indiana missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the final 28 seconds.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Petteway was as excellent as advertised, scoring 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting and knocking down a pair of important second-half 3-pointers. He attacked the rim and also scored from the mid-range, proving to be one of the most difficult players to guard in the Big Ten.

Center Walter Pitchford scored 11 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Shavon Shields had 11 points and four assists. Guard Ray Gallegos hit three big 3-pointers, one of them as part of a four-point play, and scored 10 points and guard Nathan Hawkins hit a critical three-pointer to tie the game just as Indiana had earned some breathing room.

IU sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell led the Hoosiers with 14 points and five assists, but had just three points in the second half. All of those came on a 3-pointer in the final minute. Freshman guard Stanford Robinson had 12 points, but just two in the second half. Senior forward Will Sheehey also scored 12.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: In the first half, Indiana’s 2-3 zone made Nebraska look lost. The Cornhuskers turned the ball over 11 times against it while shooting just 8-for-23 and 2-for-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. In the second half, though, the Huskers seemed much more energized and as IU coach Tom Crean put it, the Hoosiers “took the bait.”

When Nebraska got the ball in the middle in the second half, the Hoosiers collapsed even though the game plan was not to leave shooters open on the wings. The open looks led to six open 3-pointers, which accounted for more than half of the Cornhuskers’ second-half field goals. They were 11-for-21 from the field and 6-for-11 from beyond the arc after the break while turning it over just three times.

On the flip side, the Hoosiers fell apart somewhat when Nebraska started using more zone in the second half. That effectively took the dribble drive game out of the equation after that had been so valuable for Indiana in the first half. The Hoosiers had some luck from outside in the first half with Ferrell and Robinson each banking in a 3-pointer, but the 3 that Ferrell hit in the final minute was the only one Indiana made out of the six they attempted in the second frame. The Hoosiers cut their turnover number down from 12 in the first half to seven in the second, but the Cornhuskers were more opportunistic in the second half, scoring 14 points off those seven turnovers after having just five in the first half.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It’s not as bad of a loss as Northwestern was at the time because the Cornhuskers already have a couple of pelts to their name with the wins over Ohio State and Minnesota and the near-upset of Michigan. Still, it’s a painful loss and the third to a team outside of the RPI Top 75. The Hoosiers had some level of momentum after the win over Illinois and the loss shatters that, especially because of the lead they held and their failure to sustain it.

The Hoosiers are running out of opportunities to even make a push before an NCAA Tournament bid, as they are not really even part of the discussion right now. They still get the Cornhuskers at home, they have Purdue and Minnesota on the road and Penn State at home. They may have already gone past their margin for error in those games and they certainly can’t afford to drop another one. And every time they lose a winnable game, they need another significant upset over Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan or Iowa to make up for it. One more of those probably isn’t going to be enough at this point.

WHO SAID WHAT: I haven’t posted this here yet directly, but I was not in Lincoln tonight and watched the game from my couch. We flew to Chicago and learned that our connecting flights to Omaha had been pushed back to 6:15 p.m. Central Time departures, which meant that we could not possibly make it to Lincoln on time, so we came back and I watched the game from home. Still, Nebraska sent quotes from Tom Crean and Tim Miles. They follow.

Tom Crean

Opening Statement
“We came out with great defensive energy, pretty good ball movement and very good awareness. Bottom line is in the second half our awareness wasn’t where it needed to be defensively. There’s a certain way that (Nebraska) wants to play. And in the first half, we did a pretty good job of defending that and taking that away. In the second half, we allowed them to get too comfortable on the perimeter with the three-point shooting. We took the bait a little bit when the ball went into the middle. We’d worked hard on it for a couple of days and we reviewed it at halftime that we didn’t want to get off their shooters. We wanted to extend a little bit more than usual. The bottom line is when you have shooters like they have and you play the middle and you go to the guy in the middle, whether you are man or zone, and you allow them to throw the ball back in – they made some big shots. We just weren’t as aware. It’s unfortunate because it’s a game where we were right there the whole way. They did a good job of bottling up the lane. We got the ball inside enough, we just didn’t get enough done with it. So we got it in, but we just didn’t get enough production from it. Bottom line, our lack of awareness defensively combined with any points off the turnovers was the difference. And (Nebraska) made big shots.”

On the second-half struggle
“I’d have to really think about that. I’m not really thinking about how that works into the Illinois game. We just needed to continue to drive the ball. We got to the basket at times. I’ll have to watch the film on the offense. It was more about our lack of awareness defensively. We were in control of the game in the first half. And obviously it’s a 40-minute game. We knew that. But we had a pretty good idea of what they were going to go to. Like I said, we kind of took the bait a little bit. That’s what we’ve got to outgrow. We lost this game on the defensive end more so than anything we did on the offensive side. I may feel different after we watch the film. Again, when you shoot the way they did in the second half from the three and from the field versus what they did in the first half, that’s a big difference.”

On if he sensed a letup
“No. Did you? I just think it was lack of awareness and to what was working for us. We played hard. We got a little quiet. We didn’t have as much being ready to be on the attack. Again, you have to stay really disciplined. It doesn’t matter what sport it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s football, if it’s hockey – when you get out of your lane a little bit and your playing defensive against a team that has as many shooters as they have, they can make you pay and that’s exactly what they did. They didn’t in the first half because we did a good job of challenging shots well. When we’re in long close-out situations, that’s what hurt us. That allowed the crowd to get back into it. We played nip and tuck but we should’ve never gotten into that hole based on our defense. But I don’t think it was from a lack of playing hard.”

On the difference from last year
“There’s two different teams. I think you could’ve stopped right there. It’s two different teams. We lost a couple guys to a lottery and are out there with three freshmen starters. So we are an entirely different team. (Nebraska Coach Tim Miles) has done a great job. He has done a fantastic job. He has a great staff. They played very hard. It’s just a matter of time. This building is spectacular. They’ve got a lot of things to be excited about and be proud of. They’ve got a very good team. They cause matchup issues. For the most part, he puts people out there you have to guard past the three-point line. When you have people like (Walter) Pitchford that can do that. And (Shavon) Shields with the outside abilities that he has. Not to mention (Terran) Petteway and all the other guys and (Ray) Gallegos. Gallegos has done a great job. In reference to your question, a year ago when we played them, he was averaging 17 shots in the league and 10 threes. You talk about a guy that continues to understand how to help his team. He’s an impressive young man. I don’t know him but he’s impressive. And he hurt us in some really tough times.”


Nebraska Coach Tim Miles
Opening Statement
“After the last two nights, it would appear that Psalm 37, ‘The meek shall inherit the Earth. The first shall be last and the last shall be first’, kinda feels like the Big Ten right now, doesn’t it? The other line that we always use, of course, is ‘If you’re going to get down, get down early’.”

On what changed between halves
“It was a couple of different things. First of all, Indiana did a very good job of confusing our guys. They went man-zone, within a possession they’d go man-zone. Then when we played certain lineups, we wouldn’t guard guys. Then they’d face guard other guys, kind of making it look like triangle and two, even though it wasn’t triangle and two. Coach Crean really had a great game plan that way. It really kept us off-balance, even getting quality shots. Then we got a couple of shots, Benny got two and Leslie took one. We missed them all. Then they’d bank in two threes. That really affected us. You just can’t let those things that are out of your control affect you. I thought then, we were just kind of getting our butts kicked. They were on the attack. We weren’t and you’re down 32-19. We were lucky it was that close.”

On the team’s mental toughness
“We’re getting better. Here’s the thing. We found a way to win tonight. We have to credit them for being able to scratch out a victory when they weren’t at their best. I thought that was good. It’s one thing just to shoot well and win. It’s another thing to go out and scratch out a win. I was proud of the guys that they went out and did that.”

On what was said at half time
“I challenged them. I told them I thought that they were tentative and that we couldn’t be or else we were going to lose. We were getting killed on the boards, we were turning the ball over, we were standing around. We kind of did that to a lesser degree against Penn State. Now, all of a sudden, all of the problems are solved against Minnesota because we shoot 50 percent or whatever. Then we go back to tonight and we stand around like we don’t even realize what sport we’re playing. But they figured it out.”


  1. Double, I don’t think that you have any answers either. I sure don’t! Will Sheehey is the only guy on the team that is really playing basketball (talking, defending, rebounding, moving without the ball, driving, making plays, finding open shots, etc. 100% of the time) but poor Will can’t hit his shots! Noah is great, but we don’t run plays to get him free for good looks, he can hit from anywhere. Yogi is greatly improved but his style (herky-jerky jitterbug in any and all directions)and the fact that the ball is in his hands 70% of the time, make spacing and anticipation by his teammates almost impossible. Stanford is a great freshman, but he tries to do too much individually, not as part of a team. Troy is a great athlete, but he does not have the basic defensive skills, like defensive stance, the sense of positioning to cover help inside and still cover the 3 without fouling, and is always trying for the “highlight reel play”. Devin should play more. Jeremy is not a basketball player now, not sure how that happened. Austin is inconsistent but improving. Howard can play a few minutes. Collin and Marlin should not be on the floor. I think that Hanner improves every day. I agree play him with Noah, Will, Yogi and Stanford until there is real foul trouble. But he can’t guard a perimeter drive. However, all of this being said, if Noah stays and we add the 3 shooters in the class of 2014, this is a Final Four team next season! So give Coach Crean some slack!

  2. BP, I pretty much think like you with 1 exception. It would help greatly if there were 4 or 5 1/2 court offense set plays they could run with good success in a 11 or 12 second time span vs struggling for a shot or the shot clock running out.

  3. HC, great point! Dust of just a few “motion offense” plays with short fuses and then CRASH the boards!

  4. This is simply not a talented enough team to win consistently against very good teams. Besides Vonleah and Ferell, there are no other star quality performers. Robinson and Williams do have potential for the future and Sheehey is a solid player but cannot shoot the ball. All other players would have a tough time even making the bench squad at Kansas, Syracuse, Duke and the other top teams. It really is not a youth issue but rather a talent issue. Crean really needs to find a quality big man for next year to replace Vonleah to go along with the incoming better shooters.

  5. So Beatpurdue: Let me take your last sentence above ” if this team had 3 shooters they would be a Final Four team next year! Cut Crean some slack”. In essence.

    So – if I gave him (Crean) 3 quality shooters say – three random type guys – like – lets say Hulls – Watford and Oladipo type guys. Heck – I’ll even throw in a guy who’s good enough to be picked 4th overall in the NBA draft along with those shooters. Heck – I’ll even rank this team next years squad #1 in the nation and I’ll spot them a #1 seed in the tournament. Surely if you had a squad like this – and Coach Crean’s leadership – they would be a guaranteed Final Four team.

    Do you see any flaws in your theory yet?

  6. I’d bet a lot of $ the present team + 5th year JH-CW with Sr. VO and Jr. CZ would be playing in the FF.

  7. Grad, What you write is YOUR theory, not mine, and I see lots of holes in your post: 1) first you did not quote me, you tried to “paraphrase” me (don’t use quotes for this); 2) “a Final Four team” always means “one of the 4-8 teams that “should/could reach the Final Four” (in football a “Super Bowl team” this year included SF and New England; you are predicting the future with many possibilities, not recording history); 3) last year IU was “a Final Four team”, so was Syracuse, only one could make it because of the fact that they played each other in the Regionals; 4) this is honest sport, there are NO GUARANTEES, that is why you play the game! I like my theory not yours!

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