basketball Edit

Another late NU rally falls short in an 84-76 loss to Indiana

Down by as many as 18 points just 10 minutes into its home game vs. Indiana on Sunday night, it looked as if Nebraska was going to get run out of Pinnacle Bank Arena.

But the Huskers rallied back with a furious second-half comeback and took the lead with just over nine minutes to play.

While the path to get there was a changeup from NU’s familiar theme of late-game collapses this season, the story closed with an all-too-familiar ending in an 84-76 defeat.

After a 3-pointer by Teddy Allen cut the Hoosiers' lead to 77-75 with 2:10 remaining, Nebraska was out-scored 7-1 the rest of the way.

The Huskers shot 51 percent and held IU to 2-of-11 on threes in the second half, but the same problems – missed free throws, poor rebounding, costly turnovers – once again kept them from getting over the hump.

Nebraska dropped to 4-8 overall and 0-5 in Big Ten play on the year, extending its conference losing streak to 22 games dating back to last season.

Nebraska turned an 18-point deficit into a three-point lead, but it couldn't finish the job down the stretch.
Nebraska turned an 18-point deficit into a three-point lead, but it couldn't finish the job down the stretch. (Associated Press)

The rust of not having played in eight days showed up right away to start the game, as Nebraska’s shooting was cold, and its ball handling was sloppy for the first 10 minutes.

Indiana, on the other hand, came out firing from the opening tip, hitting 11 of its first 15 shots and six of its first eight 3-pointers to jump out to a commanding 31-13 lead.

The Huskers would eventually get things settled down and trimmed their 18-point deficit down to eight on a layup by Derrick Walker with 2:25 left in the half.

But the Hoosiers, who shot 53 percent from the field and 7-of-13 from behind the arc in the first half, pushed their lead back up to 46-34 on a put-back dunk by Trey Galloway as time expired.

Rob Phinisee hit 3-of-4 3-pointers and scored 16 of his career-high 18 points in the first half, while Allen had 12 of his team-high 21 points to lead NU.

The game’s tune flipped in the second half, though, as Nebraska made nine of its first 13 shots after halftime while Indiana started 1-of-8 from 3-point range.

That eventually led to NU going on a 14-2 run and taking its first lead since the 17:56 mark in the first half on a 3-pointer by Kobe Webster that made it 63-62 with 9:39 to go.

A basket by Allen, two free throws by Shamiel Stevenson, and a layup by Trey McGowens gave Nebraska its largest lead of the night at 69-66 two minutes later.

Trailing by two with 3:37 left in the game, Dalano Banton had a chance to tie it at the free-throw line but only made 1-of-2 attempts.

The Huskers would go on to score just four more points and miss nine of their final 10 shots the rest of the way, while Indiana sealed the win with nine free throws in the final 3:15.

Five players scored in double figures for NU in the loss, led by Allen’s 21, 15 from Lat Mayen, and 10 each from McGowens, Banton, and Derrick Walker.

Trayce Jackson-Davis had 15 points and 11 rebounds for Indiana, with 10 of his points coming in the last 7:38 of play. Aljami Durham added 17 points for the Hoosiers, which improved 8-5, 3-3.

Nebraska will return to action to play host to No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. CT tip on BTN.

3-POINT PLAY

1. Indiana won in the final four minutes, but NU lost in the first 10

For the eighth time in as many losses, Nebraska put itself behind the eight ball by allowing its opponent to break the game open with a massive scoring run.

Yes, the Huskers were able to battle back from an 18-point deficit and reclaim the lead in the second half, but the amount of energy and effort they had to expend to do it left them running on fumes when the game was on the line.

It’s not just about playing a full 40 minutes for this team anymore. It’s about not having 5-10-minute stretches that all but eliminate any chance you have of winning by completely falling apart.

The good news is that Nebraska found something during its rally tonight. By forcing tough shots, securing defensive rebounds, and attacking the basket in transition, the Huskers had the Hoosiers totally on their heels and were in full control for a lengthy stretch.

McGowens was the engine powering that effort, and he’s emerged as a go-to player when his team needs a spark. After making two free throws to tie it at 71-71 with 5:06 left, McGowens didn’t attempt another shot the rest of the night.

He needs the ball more in crunch time.

2. Walker’s impact was undeniable

Even though he had to check out of the game after just 3:43 of playing time, Walker caught his breath and showed what all of the excitement was about in his return to action on Sunday.

After sitting nearly two years since his transfer from Tennessee in May of 2019, the 6-foot-8 junior forward instantly provided Nebraska with an offensive post presence it had lacked for far too long.

Walker scored his career-high 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, along with three rebounds, two steals, a block, and an assist in 26 minutes. He did commit three of NU’s nine turnovers, and his -10 plus/minus ended up as the second-lowest on the team (Banton, -12).

But for his first live game action since the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Walker gave a good look at how he can change the Huskers’ lineup as he continues to settle back into the flow of the season.

3. With Ouedraogo out, others need to step up

In the same game that Nebraska added Walker to the mix, it also played its first of potentially five contests without starting center Yvan Ouedraogo.

While head coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t officially confirm it, Ouedraogo is presumed to have tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, which forced NU to postpone its game at Purdue on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9, 245-pound sophomore had started the previous four games and averaged 5.1 points on 62.5-percent shooting and ranked second on the team with 5.5 rebounds per game.

While Walker filled his place in the starting lineup, the Huskers needed other players to take on more prominent roles in the frontcourt.

The most notable was Shamiel Stevenson, who had played a combined 24 minutes over the first four Big Ten games. The 6-6, 245, junior guard/forward responded with one of his best games as a Husker, scoring seven points in 14 minutes and posting the only positive plus/minus on the team (+4).

However, when Walker wasn’t on the floor, NU often had to use very small lineups that had Stevenson at the five. As a result, it was out-rebounded 41-30 overall and 12-5 on the offensive glass, giving IU a 16-3 edge in second-chance points.

Assuming Ouedraogo’s positive test came back on Monday, that means he’ll be required to sit out for at least 17 days per Big Ten rules. Nebraska plays four more games during that stretch.

Walker, Stevenson, and really everyone else is going to have to answer the call to fill Ouedraogo’s absence in the paint.

THEY SAID IT

“We belong in this league, and I feel like we can turn this around. As a team, we feel like we can turn this around… We’ve got to fight together, we’ve got to be there together, we’re got to do all the little things that matter.”
— Junior forward Derrick Walker on Nebraska's mindset after an 0-5 start to Big Ten play.