IU men’s basketball hasn’t been home in six days. After losing to Wisconsin in double-overtime Thursday, letting a late second half lead slip away, IU was able to close out Nebraska 84-76 Sunday night.
In the first half, the Hoosiers had one of their best shooting performances of the season.
For the first time this season, one of IU’s opponents completely sold out on defense in an attempt to stop sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, trapping him whenever he touched the ball and willingly leaving perimeter shooters open. As a result, Jackson-Davis missed his lone shot in the first half, finishing with just 2 points.
“Nebraska is the first team to have the extreme level of, ‘hey let the other guy shoot it,’” IU head coach Archie Miller said. “They decided not to guard some guys, they decided to leave some guys wide-open.”
Two of the shooters who benefited greatly from the Cornhuskers’ all-out attempt to stop Jackson-Davis were junior guard Rob Phinisee and senior guard Al Durham.
Phinisee was dominant in his 18 first half minutes, scoring 16 points — already a season-high — on six of 10 shooting. Phinisee also led IU’s 3-point barrage, making three of his four attempts from beyond the arc.
Durham also helped pick up the slack in the wake of Jackson-Davis’ first half struggles, scoring 10 points and connecting twice from 3-point range. IU shot 52.9% from the floor in the first half and 53.8% from beyond the arc, taking a 46-34 lead into the locker room.
“I think we have some more confidence from guys right now offensively that feel good about shooting the ball,” Miller said. “We’re getting a lot of different types of contributions each game-in and game-out from behind the line.”
In the second half, the Hoosiers’ shooting resembled more of their season average. IU shot just 38.7% from the field and made just two of 11 3-pointers.
IU went on multiple scoring droughts of over two minutes in the second half, allowing Nebraska to chip away at its lead before senior guard Tai Webster drained a 3-pointer with 9:32 remaining in the game, capping off a 14-2 Nebraska run.
IU experienced similar struggles three days prior in Madison, Wisconsin. They had to find a way to hold on in the closing minutes of the game against Wisconsin and this time came out on top.
After his first half struggles, Jackson-Davis found some rhythm offensively in the second half, largely by drawing fouls converting at the free-throw line.
IU made a concentrated effort to find ways for the preseason All-American to carve out space and attack the basket before being ambushed by a Nebraska double-team. Jackson-Davis responded by scoring 13 points in the second half, finishing with 15 in the game, while converting seven of his 10 second half free throws.
“Trayce did get 14 free throws in this game which was great to see,” Miller said. “The other night they only called eight personal fouls in the entire 50 minutes, so tonight for us to be able to get to the foul line 25 times was a much different feeling for us than the other night.”
Unlike its game against Wisconsin, IU made the plays at the end of the game to hold off a late surging Nebraska, converting opportune buckets and getting needed stops in the closing minutes.
Junior forward Jerome Hunter put the game out of reach with just over one minute remaining after missing a corner 3-pointer. Immediately realizing his shot was short, Hunter sprinted toward the rim and ripped down the offensive rebound, taking one dribble before finishing the layup off the glass to put the Hoosiers up four.
“I thought Jerome missing his own shot and then following up was probably the nail in the coffin in giving us the ability to win the game,” Miller said.