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Three Things: Indiana Beats Nebraska 81-65

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NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

We can all exhale now. After an agonizing four days off between games, Indiana welcomed Nebraska to Assembly Hall with a chance to get to .500 in conference play on the line.

The Hoosiers got some unwelcome news before the game when they learned that Jalen Hood-Schifino would miss his second straight game with a back injury. This time though, Indiana took care of business and beat a Nebraska squad that had just beaten Creighton on the road.

Most importantly, Indiana looked the part of the preseason conference favorite tonight and never really let this game get too close down the stretch. We got some history from Trayce Jackson-Davis, great bench minutes, and an all around reassuring win to get the season back on track after Saturday’s atrocity.

Here’s Three Things:

Response Game

While I wrote after the last game that there was no need to panic after the loss to Rutgers, it was up to Indiana to prove me right tonight with a statement win against Nebraska in Assembly Hall. Hood-Schifino being out a second straight game gave the upperclassmen the chance to prove that the offense is not lost without his calming presence on the court.

From the opening tip, there was no doubt that Indiana got the message after last game. On the first possession, Indiana got the ball inside to Race Thompson who immediately went to the rim for a layup.

He missed the layup, but in attempting it, he tied his total number of 2-point attempts from last game at Rutgers. He finished the night with nine points (including a made three), six rebounds, and had an assist, showing better shot selection and aggression inside compared to Saturday’s game in Piscataway.

Miller Kopp had another nice game, capitalizing on his hot shooting last game with 13 points tonight, mostly on twos. He didn’t have his 3-point shot tonight, but was able to find success with the pump fake and drive when defenders over extended to guard him on the perimeter.

The offense flowed better tonight and looked more balanced, with four Indiana players finishing with more than ten points tonight. The Hoosiers finished with 22 assists compared to 9 last game.

Trayce Jackson-Davis

Trayce became the third player in Indiana history to record a triple-double tonight, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He also had a game-high three blocks.

It’s no secret that he’s usually the best player on the floor when he’s out there. He was a preseason first team All-American, and was clearly the better player when he matched up against the other first team front court player, Armando Bacot.

Still, we need to appreciate what we have here. He’s going to continue to set Indiana records and has a good chance to break into the top ten all time scoring this Saturday when Indiana takes on Arizona in Las Vegas.

Trayce arguably had the most to prove after last weekend’s loss to Rutgers, though his 13 points and 10 rebounds didn’t necessarily reflect a poor effort in that game. He looked completely surprised at all of the double and triple teams he saw from the Scarlet Knights, recording only two assists versus four turnovers.

Tonight’s passing performance is a good sign that Saturday’s game was just an anomaly and that he’ll be able to pass his way out of trouble. This won’t be the last time a team sends multiple defenders to him, so hopefully tonight’s game is more indicative of how he’ll handle it this year.

Backcourt Bench Guys

On any other night, the main story would have been Tamar Bates’ and Trey Galloway’s performances tonight. Their games were crucial to Trayce’s triple-double, but they weren’t the ones making history tonight.

After going a combined 1-12 for 2 points in 49 minutes Saturday, Galloway and Bates finished with 20 and 19, respectively tonight, capitalizing on the shot at increased playing time in Hood-Schifino’s absence.

Galloway’s 20 points was a career-high for him and he did well running point-guard when Xavier Johnson went to the bench, but the most impressive thing was his four 3-pointers on six attempts. He was shooting 50% from deep entering today and it’s pretty obvious that his form has improved a lot, so it was good to see him feeling confident and taking good shots tonight.

Tamar also had probably his best game of his college career, shooting 5-8 from 3-point range in his 19-point performance while grabbing four boards and two assists versus zero turnovers.

Bates and Galloway also scored for Trayce’s ninth and tenth assists tonight, chucking a three and finishing a contested layup when the entire building knew that history was on the line.

As I said after last game, Indiana should not have to rely on a freshman guard as much as they apparently did in the loss to Rutgers. Today proved that they have two more scoring options in the backcourt and deep threats, should Hood-Schifino miss any more time to injury.

Even if the freshman guard hits something of a freshman slump this year, Woodson now knows he can go to guys like Galloway or Bates early to get the offense moving again. If the two of them can keep playing like tonight, it’ll be harder to keep them off the floor.

P.S. Is Nebraska just okay with being so mediocre under Fred Hoiberg? With tonight’s loss, he dips below .300 through four seasons with the Huskers. And things are not trending up.