MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Hoosiers healthy, turnover prone at Nebraska | Sports
LINCOLN, Neb. — For the first time since late November, Indiana’s men’s basketball team had its full complement of players Wednesday at Nebraska.
Xavier Johnson returned after a seven-game absence, and Kel’El Ware came back after missing one game with COVID-19.
Though Indiana could put any combination on the floor, it couldn’t find a winning one. The Hoosiers were disjointed almost from the start, and the Cornhuskers made them pay as Indiana fell 86-70 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
It was the first Big Ten defeat of the season for the Hoosiers, and it was a sobering one.
Though Ware had a team-high 20 points, Indiana was not able to establish its post game. The Hoosiers had just 26 points in the paint as Nebraska made it difficult for Indiana to get the ball to the rim for easy conversions.
Turnovers were endemic. Indiana had 19 giveaways leading to 27 Nebraska points. It’s the problem Indiana coach Mike Woodson pinpointed after the game.
“It was the difference in the game. You go out on the road, you have to play differently than you do at home. You’ve got to defend, rebound and you can’t turn it over. Tonight, that was the biggest problem,” Woodson said.
Though Indiana was 9-of-18 from 3-point range, several of them were made after the game was already in Nebraska’s hands.
Add a Nebraska attack in which the Cornhuskers scored 1.3 points per possession and it was a difficult night for the Hoosiers.
Johnson had a tough night. He played 14 minutes and didn’t score. He had four turnovers and was just never able to get into rhythm.
Ware was solid after missing his one contest. He was 9-of-12 from the field with 20 points and 10 rebounds, none of which eased the annoyance of the loss.
“We have to create our own energy, play through the team and communicate with each other to try to come out with the win,” said Ware, who said he had two practices in after he returned from being out with COVID-19.
The Hoosiers (10-4, 2-1 Big Ten) were disjointed from the start. After a 4-for-4 start from the field staked the Hoosiers to an early lead, Nebraska clamped down. The Hoosiers were 9-of-24 for the rest of the half.
Turnovers and foul trouble didn’t help. Indiana had nine turnovers in the first half, four of them by Johnson. The Cornhuskers scored 14 first-half points from those giveaways.
“A lot of times, we were trying to create things that weren’t there. They put two on the ball, and that’s been pretty good for us. We’re able to get rid of the ball, and that pass leads to something good,” Woodson said. “Tonight, we tried to fight the two on the ball, and we were throwing it away. We had some unforced turnovers that were unacceptable. We have to fix it because we’re not going to beat anyone in the Big Ten doing that.”
Indiana tried to feed the post to Ware — when the Hoosiers could get it there. Several turnovers occurred on passes into the post that didn’t find the mark. Ware was found enough for 12 first-half points.
Malik Reneau, Mackenzie Mgbako and Johnson were each saddled with two fouls in the first half, too.
Nebraska rode the hot hands of Keisei Tominaga and C.J. Wilcher. The latter had 11 first-half points, a continuance of recent good form as Wilcher averaged 17 in his last two games. Tominaga had 10 points at halftime as Nebraska led 41-33.
Nothing changed for Indiana offensively in the second half as the Hoosiers could not find rhythm. That wasn’t an issue for the Cornhuskers or, specifically, Tominaga.
The guard had a dynamic second half with 18 points. Overall, Nebraska (12-2, 2-1) was 8-of-16 from 3-point range after the break.
Indiana never got its deficit under eight after halftime, and a 9-0 Nebraska run just after the 10-minute mark finished the Hoosiers off.
“We have to take that one to the chin. We’re going to have to come in tomorrow and lock in on defense and prepare for the next game,” Ware said.
Indiana returns home Saturday as Ohio State visits. The Buckeyes defeated Rutgers 76-72 on Wednesday.