Indiana has found ways to win this year with ball security and energy. On this night against Nebraska, Indiana was sorely lacking in both. Indiana has changed its turnover prone reputation from last year, cutting about 2 turnovers per game off its average. Tonight IU tied its highest turnover total on the season with 19. While the Hoosiers no doubt brought energy on the defensive end, the Cornhuskers were able to regularly chase down offensive rebounds to create second opportunities. It added up to a 66-57 Nebraska win as the Hoosiers’ 4 game winning streak is snapped. IU hosts Ohio State on Friday night in the final regular season home game of the year.
Overall: C+ Despite everything that the Hoosiers were doing wrong, they found themselves with the ball and a 41-37 lead in the second half. It felt like at that point that perhaps IU could gain some separation. Instead, the Cornhuskers went on a big run and put the game away. The Hoosiers were just never able to consistently get things going — and it was usually turnovers that were getting in their way. While IU was able to counter Nebraska’s offensive rebounding with a lot of 2nd chance points of their own, the Hoosiers were dominated in points off turnovers, 26-13. That was really the difference in the game, and it was a big step backwards for a group of guards that seemed to be emerging down the stretch.
Coaching: B- You could have created a really entertaining highlight reel of Archie Miller on this night. His guards were obviously driving him crazy, as many of the turnovers seemed to be of the unforced, lackadaisical variety. The reality here is that IU continues to get exposed by teams that play physical/aggressive defense because it doesn’t have a true point guard that can counteract that. Miller does the best that he can with the Green/Newkirk tandem, but they are not point guards, and in games like this — it shows.
Offense: C Indiana returned to reality from behind the 3-point line, going 3 of 14 on the night. Nebraska played a very aggressive defense out on the perimeter to take that away. Indiana countered that effectively at times with dribble penetration but also committed a lot of turnovers on those drives as it couldn’t handle Nebraska’s physical play. After some games with really nice assist to turnover ratios, the Hoosiers were nothing short of awful, with only 10 assists and the 19 turnovers. Nebraska’s defense reduced IU into a one-on-one attack, and Indiana just doesn’t have the weapons to win in that way. The one positive here was offensive rebounding, as IU secured 11 on the night, resulting in 16 second chance points.
Defense: B+ Once again, Indiana played with inspired energy and effort on the defensive end — at least until Nebraska shot the ball. Missed box outs and tap outs resulted in 19 Nebraska offensive rebounds. Indiana had held the best offensive rebounding team in the country, Michigan State, to only three offensive rebounds. It was unfortunate because otherwise the Hoosiers would have been getting stops. Nebraska struggled with IU’s defense most of the night, shooting only 40% from the field. Indiana never really allowed James Palmer, Jr. to get into a rhythm, in large part due to an inspired effort from Robert Johnson.
Players with meaningful minutes:
- Al Durham, Jr.: B Like all of IU’s guards, Durham never looked comfortable on the offensive end. Unlike the others, he only had 1 turnover and he was knocked down on that one in a play that symbolized the physical play that Nebraska was for the most part allowed to get away with. He had a really nice block that was all effort.
- Josh Newkirk: C+ As it tends to be with the senior guard, it was a mixed bag. He had some really nice moments breaking down the defense and making pretty passes at the rim. He also had head scratching turnovers and his shot is still not falling.
- Justin Smith: A- At times Smith looked gassed, and that was a good thing. He brought an energy level we haven’t seen before. He was a force on the offensive glass and continues to improve finishing around the basket. He finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds. If it materializes, a Smith/Morgan front court tandem next year could be really special.
- Robert Johnson: A- No career highs or IU records as Johnson worked hard to earn everything he got on the night. He may not be a vocal leader but his effort and work ethic certainly leads by example. He is finishing the way a senior should. It all started with his defense which was excellent throughout. 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, but he did have 3 turnovers.
- Devonte Green: D+ There really isn’t a way to sugarcoat it — Green was bad. It is hard to think of positives here, and it was hard to see this coming because he has been playing so well. What is now clear is that Indiana really needs him as a third option on offense to take their game to the next level — and he never had it tonight. In fact most of the time he was doing more harm than good with 6 turnovers.
- Juwan Morgan: A- At times Morgan looked exhausted. You have to wonder if he is running out of steam — and who could blame him as he has carried the team all year. If fatigue is playing a role it is showing up in his offensive efficiency where he hasn’t been his normal elite self lately. Still he had 13 points and 9 rebounds including 5 offensive.
- Zach McRoberts: C+ He’s going to have to figure out how to stay on the floor as foul trouble continues to be an issue. It isn’t clear if he is trying to do too much or perhaps he is running out of steam as well — and what were once steals are now fouls? He’s also seems to have become a favorite target of the officials. His last foul on the night was as phantom as they come.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: C+ McSwain is on the floor to get rebounds. In 14 minutes, he had no rebounds. That just cannot happen. Nebraska was taking advantage of his size by just tapping the ball out over him rather than trying to rebound it. He did have a couple really nice finishes at the rim where he is improving daily.
- Collin Hartman: B It was very mysterious that Hartman only played 5 minutes. It seemed like a game where a heady veteran could have calmed things down.
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Photo credit – Elsie Stormberg, The World-Herald