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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Free throw shooting continues to boost IU

To the surprise of a somewhat subdued crowd in Assembly Hall Wednesday evening, IU found itself uncharacteristically trailing in several categories in the early minutes of an eventual 76-47 win against Nebraska.

About nine minutes into the game, Nebraska found itself leading IU 12-9, its edge largely thanks to an 8-3 rebounding advantage and 5-of-6 shooting from the field as opposed to a paltry 2-of-11 for IU.

However, the Huskers’ most commanding category lead at that time came in one they probably would have preferred to avoid, as Nebraska had seven fouls to just one by the Hoosiers.

More than half of IU’s points thus far had come from the free throw line, keeping the game within two possessions as IU continued to attack inside even when shots were not falling from the field.

“The worst thing that could happen to us is we’re not being aggressive,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “It doesn’t mean we’re always going to get to the line. It doesn’t mean we’re always going to make them. It doesn’t mean we’re always going to get the call. But we’ve got to be aggressive in our pursuit of it. I think our guys were.”

IU would end the night 24-of-29 from the charity stripe, with six different players making free throws for the Hoosiers. Nebraska finished with 22 fouls to 12 for IU.

The fouls racked up at a furious pace early for the Cornhuskers, in particular by center Andre Almeida. The 6-foot-11, 314-pound senior came off the bench early for Nebraska and set a series of bruising picks for his team with senior forward Christian Watford as his apparent favorite target.

“It’s tough,” Watford said. “You just try not to get backed up all the way under the goal. You’ve just got to fight him, but he’s definitely a big guy. He’s definitely tough.”

Some picks were clean moves that opened the lane for Nebraska guards to drive almost at will, but others were violent enough to be called as sliding screens by the official. Almeida left the game with his third foul less than halfway through the first half and played only a single minute in the second, rendering himself a nonfactor overall.

Veteran forward Brandon Ubel also racked up three first-half fouls for the Huskers, his coming largely on moving screens, as well. Nebraska’s leading rebounder and third-leading scorer nonetheless continued to play and ultimately fouled out with 4:38 remaining in the second half of Wednesday’s game.

“When Brandon Ubel was in the game, I thought we were at our best,” Nebraska Coach Tim Miles said. “We just couldn’t get him on the floor enough.”

IU was not without its own issues on post player fouls, though. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller racked up three of his own in the first half and was sent to the bench. He was kept to just three first-half points.

It is worth noting, however, that those three points came off of free throws. Even as he found his touch from the field in the second period on his way to a team-high 16 points, Zeller continued to get to the line. Half of his final output came from foul shots.

IU has now hit at least 20 free throws in 20 of its 25 games this season. The team leads the Big Ten in free throw shooting.

Even as timely as IU’s free throws were Wednesday evening, keeping the Hoosiers in the game early and helping them snowball the lead late, the 82.8 percent performance was not even up to recent standards. During the last five games, IU is averaging 86.2 percent on foul shots (100-of-116).

“It’s just a big part of our offense, period,” Watford said. “We don’t want to hang out hats on long jump shots. Any time we get in the paint, we need to get fouled.”

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