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What to watch for: Struggling Cornhuskers come to Assembly Hall

Just like Tuesday’s 57-54 win over Connecticut, Indiana will have another shot to right the ship when they head back home to the friendly confines of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to host Nebraska on Friday.

The 9-1 Hoosiers bounced back with a win against the Huskies after getting dominated and losing by 20 to Wisconsin last Saturday. Nebraska looks to be a lesser opponent than both Wisconsin and UConn this season, but the game still holds dire importance as it is a conference game.

Justin Smith goes for the layup in an early season matchup. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

The Wisconsin loss has Indiana at an 0-1 record in Big Ten play thus far, but they can even that figure with a win on Saturday. This will be the second and final early season Big Ten game for the Hoosiers. After Friday, Indiana won’t play another Big Ten team until Jan. 4 when they play Maryland on the road.

A year ago, Nebraska embarrassed Indiana in Bloomington, winning 66-51. It was one of the worst games the Hoosiers played all season. Indiana shot 36.5 percent from the field, 57.9 percent from the free-throw line and only made two of their 14 3-point attempts for the game.

New coach, new look

Now, Nebraska looks very different from the 19-17 team from a season ago. The Cornhuskers lost five seniors including standouts James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland and lost junior forward Isaiah Roby to the 2019 NBA Draft.

Nebraska is off to a very slow start in the first year of the Fred Hoiberg era. Without their stars from a year ago, they hold a 4-5 record with some really poor losses.

To start the season, Nebraska lost to UC-Riverside by 19 and Southern Utah in double overtime. They later lost to George Mason by 19 a few weeks later and they are currently on a two-game losing streak, losing by double digits on the road to Georgia Tech and Creighton. At one point early in the first half against Creighton, the Cornhuskers found themselves down 37-7.

Their best wins would be Washington State and South Florida. Nebraska is currently ranked No. 156 in the KenPom rankings, the only Big Ten team not to be in the top 100.

Struggling across the board

As a team, they do not score or defend particularly well. The Cornhuskers are only shooting 43 percent from the field as a team and are allowing opponents to outscore them, giving up 77.2 points per game and scoring an average of 73.6 points themselves.

Nebraska’s biggest struggle seems to be on the boards and from the free-throw line. They get outrebounded by an average of 12 rebounds per game. Nebraska also is shooting a horrid 56 percent from the charity stripe.

Three guards to watch

The bright spots of the roster include three guards in senior Haanif Cheatham, sophomore Cam Mack and junior Dachon Burke Jr. All three players are the leading scorers and are averaging nearly 12 points and four rebounds per game. Cheatham is the most efficient shooter of the bunch, nailing 57.3 percent of his shots and Mack is the team’s best distributor, accumulating 51 assists in just nine games.

Indiana will look to limit the trio of guards, hit the boards hard and force the Cornhuskers to earn their points at the line.

If they follow that strategy and limit the sloppy mistakes displayed on Tuesday, the Hoosiers could be in prime position to even their conference record and get a second consecutive win.

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