INDIANAPOLIS — IU men’s basketball took until the very end of the first half Wednesday night to finally separate itself from a Nebraska team that added two football players to its roster.
But with a 16-1 run to close the half, IU finally found a lead and never gave it up.
With a 89-64 win over Nebraska in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday night, IU kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
IU will advance to play No. 6 seed Penn State at approximately 9 p.m. Thursday night. The game will take place without fans in attendance after a decision from the Big Ten on Wednesday.
IU built off the lead it took into halftime and quickly extended it to 20 points early in the second half. Then, the lead began to fade away as has happened to IU so many times this season. Nebraska cut the deficit to 10 with just over eight minutes to play.
But with key 3-pointers to end the Nerbaska run from freshman guard Armaan Franklin — just as he did on Dec. 21 against Notre Dame in the same building — IU pulled away again and finished off an important victory.
Franklin led IU with 13 points. Freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis had 11 points and 17 rebounds. It was his 12th double-double of the season and third against Nebraska.
With the win, IU improves to 20-12 overall this season. This is the first year IU has won 20 games since the 2015-16 season — the last season IU made the NCAA Tournament.
Though avoiding a bad loss was more important for IU’s resume, losing to Nebraska would have knocked IU out of the NCAA Tournament picture entirely. The win barely influenced IU’s resume.
IU had two previous matchup with its next opponent, Penn State, this season. IU scored a season-low 49 points in a Jan. 29 loss in Pennsylvania. The Hoosiers then beat a then-No. 9 Nittany Lions team on Feb. 23 in Assembly Hall. Penn State has seen its season begin to slip, losing five of its last six games, and falling out of the top 25 rankings.
IU is still in the NCAA Tournament field for now. A win over Penn State would go to making that spot even more certain.