Nebraska extends Indiana’s misery
The 11th-ranked Hoosiers lost their third straight game, this time 70-69 to a Nebraska team that started Wednesday night tied for last in the Big Ten.
“I’d be in there throwing stuff around, angry, screaming if I felt like we didn’t care or I felt we couldn’t get better,” Crean said. “That’s not the case at all. They care and we can get better.”
That’s exactly the attitude we’re taking toward this.”
The Hoosiers (15-3, 3-4) squandered a 13-point, second-half lead against an opponent that was averaging a league-low 51 points in conference games and ranked at or near the bottom in most offensive categories.
Jorge Brian Diaz gave Nebraska (10-8, 2-5) its first lead since early in the game when he made two free throws with 11 seconds left. Indiana couldn’t score on its last possession.
“You look at the scoreboard, and Nebraska earned it,” Crean said. “We’ll go back, make the corrections we’ve got to make, but the key is to play with the edge and energy.”
The student section emptied after the final buzzer to celebrate the Huskers’ biggest win since they knocked off then-No. 3 Texas last February. Some of them picked up Dylan Talley, who high-fived as many as he could. A couple students even tried to hoist Diaz but gave up. After all, he’s 6-foot-11l.
“It was a good win guys, it was a great win,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “What can you say? We needed it and needed it bad.”
Bo Spencer, who made four three-pointers and led Nebraska with 23 points, said, “We knew Indiana and Ohio State (Saturday) were big games for protecting our home court. If we wanted to go on a run in the league, we needed to do it (now).”
The Hoosiers never got a good shot off at the end. Jordan Hulls lost control as he tried to take off for a driving layup. He lost the ball, recovered it and missed a desperation shot from in front of his bench as time ran out.
The ball bounced back toward Hulls, and he kicked it in defeat as Nebraska’s student section emptied.
“We certainly never played Nebraska like they’d won one game,” Crean said, referring to the Huskers’ conference record. “We knew how good they were. Our guys had great edge tonight. They had excellent energy. We did so many good things.”
The Hoosiers shot 62 percent while building a 41-34 half time lead and finished at 51 percent for the game. But they committed 15 turnovers, their average in Big Ten play, with many coming in the second half as Nebraska was rallying.
Toney McCray had 11 points and Diaz and Talley 10 apiece for the Huskers, who shot just 38 percent. Cody Zeller led the Hoosiers with 18 points, and Hulls added 12.
“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Zeller said. “Every game in the Big Ten is tough. I thought we played better, but it wasn’t enough, I guess.”
The Hoosiers had been hoping to break out of a mini funk from losses to Minnesota and Ohio State after a 15-1 start that included upsets of then-No. 1 Kentucky and the then-No. 2 Buckeyes.
But Nebraska, coming off a five-point loss at Wisconsin on Sunday, wouldn’t quit after the Hoosiers looked to have taken control.
“We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and make sure these losses don’t pile up,” Indiana’s Victor Oladipo said. “We’ve got to get a win on Sunday (at Penn State).”
The Hoosiers were up 69-66 with 39 seconds left after Hulls made two free throws. Spencer missed on the other end, but Talley followed with a putback, and it was a one-point game.
Brandon Richardson fouled Hulls in the backcourt on Indiana’s next possession. Hulls, an 89-percent foul shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 24 seconds to play.
“He’s a human being,” Crean said, “and no one is more disappointed than him right now. We wouldn’t want anyone else at the line.”
Hulls’ miss allowed Nebraska to set up its winning possession.
Richardson, who rebounded Hulls’ missed free throws, got the ball upcourt to Spencer, who fed Diaz. The center went right to the basket. He got fouled by Hulls and then made the tying free throw. After Indiana called timeout, he swished the go-ahead free throw.
Indiana was within seconds of posting its first Big Ten road win against an opponent other than Penn State under fourth-year coach Crean. The Hoosiers are 2-29 in conference road games since Crean took over.
Playing in Lincoln for the first time since 1942, the Hoosiers led by eight points in the first half and were poised to make it a blowout after Nebraska went more than 5 minutes without a field goal to start the second half.
Indiana, however, scored just one field goal in the last 6 minutes.
“I think we’ll be all right,” Zeller said. “We’ll get back to work, watch the film. We played better than we did the last two games. But we can’t be satisfied with moral victories.”