Just a few days ago, Indiana barely lost on the road to No. 8 Wisconsin, 80-73, and in addition to losing the game, they lost any potential comfort that would’ve come from a win.
Had the Hoosiers held on at the end of Thursday’s game, the perception of Indiana’s season would be looking differently. Indiana could’ve stolen a win on the road in the conference to break .500 in the Big Ten and earned a road win against a top-10 team to bolster its resume.
That is not the reality, though, and Indiana is 7-5 overall with a 2-3 conference mark. Once again, Indiana finds itself in an important game this Sunday to get back to an even conference record and carry some momentum before a tremendously difficult stretch of games.
Indiana will wrap up its two-game road trip against Nebraska in Lincoln.
The Cornhuskers are off to a difficult start to their season, currently holding a 4-7 record and an 0-4 mark in the Big Ten. Additionally, they do not have a win over a high-major opponent yet.
Three of their four Big Ten games have been double-digit losses, but their most recent game, a Jan. 2 home game against Michigan State was competitive, losing 84-77.
Nebraska has also had over a week off of rest. The Cornhuskers’ scheduled game against Purdue last Tuesday was postponed due to health issues between the teams, but there were no official cases of COVID-19 announced for either team.
A big part of Nebraska’s struggles thus far has been adjusting to an unfamiliar roster in a shortened season. Nebraska had eight players leave the program from a season ago, many of whom were key players. They have eight newcomers this season.
The lack of roster continuity has resulted in a lot of early season struggles for the Cornhuskers and that shows in the Big Ten’s statistical standings.
In both total points scored per game and points allowed per game, Nebraska ranks in the bottom four of the league. The Cornhuskers score 74.9 points per game, the No. 11 ranking in the Big Ten. That is two spots better than Indiana, but Nebraska is also No. 13 in the league for scoring defense, allowing an average of 73.5 points per game.
Nebraska’s average percentage on field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws are all also in the bottom tier of the conference.
- FG%: No. 13 (41.5%)
- 3FG%: No. 12 (31.5%)
- FT%: No. 13 (65.7%)
There is one area that Nebraska really excels in, though — rebounding. The Cornhuskers are No. 5 in the conference with an average of 38.9 rebounds per game. With Indiana typically struggling a bit on the glass, this will be an interesting matchup to look out for.
In addition to the effort on the glass, the size of Nebraska’s starting lineup, and in the depth of the roster could pose challenges for Indiana. The Cornhuskers start a taller lineup compared to the average Hoosier.
Nebraska’s typical starting group looks like:
- Teddy Allen, guard, junior, 6-foot-6
- Trey McGowens, guard, junior, 6-foot-4
- Lat Mayen, forward, junior, 6-foot-9
- Dalano Banton, guard, sophomore, 6-foot-9
- Yvan Ouedraogo, forward, sophomore, 6-foot-9
Dealing with the size could be challenging for the Hoosiers who only have four players who are 6-foot-7 or taller healthy.
With Indiana’s depth already reduced to nine available scholarship players due to Joey Brunk and Armaan Franklin’s injuries, the height disadvantage could be even more difficult.
As seen against Wisconsin, two of Indiana’s taller players — Jerome Hunter and Race Thompson — dealt with foul trouble for the majority of the game. The far-smaller rotation led to fatigue down the stretch of the game.
This game will likely include a lot more playing time for 6-foot-7 freshman Jordan Geronimo, who sparingly receives much time on the court.
Individually, Indiana will have to pay particular attention to Allen and Banton of Nebraska. Allen is the team’s leading scorer with 18.2 points per game and has 5.1 rebounds per contest, too.
Banton runs Nebraska’s offense, leading the team with nearly five assists a game while also chipping in 6.9 rebounds and 12.8 points per game, as well.
Regardless of any stat or matchup situation, Indiana and Nebraska always proved to be a memorable game in each of their three meetings last year.
The first meeting in December 2019 was an overtime thriller in Bloomington with Indiana pulling away for a win. The second was a competitive game in Lincoln with another Indiana win in January 2020. The third one was really the interesting one, though.
The final game came on March 11, 2020 where Indiana won again, but it was the last Big Ten athletic event of the school year before the rest of the season shut down due to coronavirus the very next day.
It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out Sunday, but what is for certain is that both teams are in need of a win.