After scoring only 50 points in their last outing against Rutgers, head coach Archie Miller knew the team would have to start knocking down shots in order to win, especially on the road.
Seemingly exhausting all of his options and still finding no answers in Piscataway earlier in the week, the biggest question was who would eventually step up for the Hoosiers and score baskets from the perimeter.
Although the answer would not come until roughly midway through the first half, Indiana was able to find an offensive rhythm that they have so desperately been searching for in a big 82-74 road win on Saturday night at Nebraska. The victory at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., was the Hoosiers first true road win of the season.
“I’m excited our guys were able to get one away from home,” Miller told Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer on his post-game radio show. “You have to find a way.”
In what was a very balanced offensive effort across the board, it was not until IU was trailing 26-17 when they really found a spark on the offensive end. That spark came unexpectedly in the form of redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter and true freshman Armaan Franklin.
On Indiana’s six scoring possessions after falling behind 26-17, five came courtesy of either a Jerome Hunter or Armaan Franklin basket or assist. That allowed IU to take a 32-30 lead with 5:56 remaining in the opening frame.
Hunter and Franklin combined to go 4-of-8 from three-point range despite coming into the game shooting 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively from distance.
“The big thing was to play with confidence, especially after we took a shot early,” Miller told Fischer. “I thought some guys did a great job. Our bench in the first half was a big key.
“I thought Jerome in the first half was really big to make a couple of threes,” Miller told Fischer. “Armaan as well. When we made a couple (of threes), that opened the inside up.”
After playing only five minutes in the loss at Rutgers, Miller could not keep Franklin off the floor on Saturday night. He played 23 minutes and tallied 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists while also providing a spark on the defensive end.
The energy that Franklin and Hunter brought was infectious. After finishing the half strong, IU went into the locker room leading Nebraska 46-41.
Rather than feeling content, Indiana came out of the locker room playing like a team that was desperate for a victory. They opened the second half on a 16-2 run to take a comfortable 62-43 lead with 15:02 remaining.
“In the second half, the first eight minutes was as well as we’ve played on offense,” Miller said. “Things changed as game went on. It got a little difficult.”
Even though the Cornhuskers battled throughout, cutting IU’s lead to six multiple times, that was as close as they got.
Whenever a big play needed to be made tonight, someone stepped up for Indiana and displayed the toughness that has been lacking on a consistent basis but is necessary if the Hoosiers want to string together victories in the gauntlet that is the Big Ten conference.
Inside The Numbers:
Indiana’s 31-of-61 (50.8 percent) shooting from the field was a drastic improvement from shooting 31.7 percent against Rutgers on Wednesday night.
For the game, Indiana was 8-of-26, or 30.8 percent, from three-point range. The Hoosiers made 6-of-16 in the first half, including five during a 28-11 run in that session.
The Hoosiers dominated the backboards, outrebounding the Cornhuskers 47 to 30. IU had 12 offensive rebounds for the game.
Three players were in double figures for Archie Miller’s team. Jackson-Davis led the way with 18 points while Brunk and Smith had 16 and 15, respectively. Jackson-Davis led the Hoosiers in rebounds with 13 and was tied for the team lead in assists with four.
“Clearly Trayce was fantastic,” Miller told Fischer. “He probably had his best game of the season in terms of both ends of the floor and what we asked him to do.
IU had 21 assists compared to 16 turnovers for the game. The assist total was a season high.
Indiana (14-4, 4-3) hosts No. 15 Michigan State in a Big Ten conference matchup. The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 23.
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