The Nebraska Cornhuskers followed the same formula that led to IU's losses to Butler and Wisconsin, at least for most of the first half. They uglied things up, slowed the tempo, and took advantage of poor IU shooting to lead the game for most of the first 12 minutes. As was expected all along, however, a couple of big IU runs turned a tight game into a blowout. With 9:00 remaining, Nebraska led 14-11. In the next two minutes, IU scored 10 points to lead 21-14. After the Huskers pulled to within 3, at 21-18, with 4:22 remaining in the first half, IU began a 13-0 run that didn't end until the 17:59 mark in the second half.
Despite an extremely sluggish start (31 percent shooting in the first half), IU ended up scoring 1.31 points per possession, the Hoosiers' second-best offensive efficiency number in Big Ten play this season and fourth-best overall. Even when the Huskers were winning, the IU defense was fairly disruptive, and Nebraska ended with with its worst turnover percentage of the season (25.6). As I noted yesterday, taking care of the ball was one of NU's few offensive strengths, and even that didn't work out for the Huskers yesterday. IU owned the boards, outscored NU 24-9 at the free throw line, and finished 8-16 from three point range, including 6-9 in the second half. Obviously, when, as Tom Crean noted in the postgame, a national championship is the goal, it's always tempting to nitpick. A rough first eight minutes against a top tier opponent can be fatal. Last night, however, IU bounced back. Individual performances of note:
- Cody Zeller played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble, but led IU with 16 points, thanks primarily to 8-11 from the line.
- Christian Watford has been playing very well lately. He scored 13 points, made all 6 free throws, and led the team with 11 rebounds.
- Victor Oladipo was himself, scoring 13 points and adding 8 boards and 3 steals.
Well, the first game of the homestand is in the books. Now, the Hoosiers turn their attention to Purdue. The Boilers have looked broken since IU's beatdown of Purdue at Mackey on January 30. Their only win since then was a ho-hum road win against a historically awful Penn State team, and they have been blown out by Northwestern, Michigan State, and Illinois. Still, it's important to remember that Purdue hung with Michigan State and Michigan on the road early in the season, and lots of things had to go right for IU to win by 37 in West Lafayette. Nevertheless, odds are that IU and Michigan State will be tied for the conference lead when they meet in East Lansing next Tuesday.