Indiana Daily Student

Indiana men’s basketball looks to rebound after loss, plays Nebraska in Big Ten opener

Senior forward Miller Kopp dribbles the ball Nov. 12, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana will begin its Big Ten slate against Nebraska on Saturday.
Senior forward Miller Kopp dribbles the ball Nov. 12, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana will begin its Big Ten slate against Nebraska on Saturday.

Indiana men’s basketball will begin Big Ten play when it faces Nebraska at noon Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The Hoosiers are looking to bounce back from a double-overtime loss on the road to Syracuse University on Nov. 30.

Senior forward Miller Kopp, who helped lead the effort with a career-high 28-point performance, said Indiana came away from the game with a positive attitude despite the defeat.

“I think any game like that hurts,” Kopp said in a press conference Friday. “We grew as a team mentally, physically and emotionally just in that game. We want to win every game, but the positive of that is we are going to be a better team because of it.”

Kopp said his confidence remains high even if he doesn’t have efficient shooting performances, but said it felt good to finally have a breakout game.

Senior guard Parker Stewart is also growing into his new role with Indiana. Stewart combined with Kopp for 10 3-pointers against Syracuse and currently leads Indiana with a 47.4% mark from behind the arc. Kopp said he always talks with Stewart during practice and that their relationship has already grown in the first several games of the season.

Related: Transfers Miller Kopp, Parker Stewart spark near comeback for Indiana in loss to Syracuse

“He can really shoot the ball, and having a guy like that on the court and in the locker room makes me want to raise my level of play,” Kopp said. “When he makes a shot I feel like I made a shot, too.”

Indiana’s scoring duo, along with junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has posted back-to-back games with 30 or more points, will look to ride their confidence back into Assembly Hall against Nebraska.

Coming off a quadruple overtime loss in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge series against North Carolina State University, Nebraska sits at 5-3 and has given up a Big Ten-worst 72.9 points per game.

The Hoosiers have heated up in the past five games with a 53.3% mark from the floor and 43.6% mark from 3-point range while also averaging 82.1 points per game, good for third in the Big Ten.

The Hoosiers have won all three of their matchups with the Cornhuskers during coach Fred Hoiberg’s tenure and hold a four-game winning streak alongside a  16-7 all-time series advantage.

Kopp, who played at Northwestern for three seasons, brings Big Ten experience to Indiana and knows what challenges to expect from Nebraska. He said his games against Nebraska always featured a fast-paced, guard-heavy brand of basketball with a focus on spreading out on the floor offensively.

“They have quick guards who like to get downhill,” Kopp said. “They’re definitely a team that wants to play up and down, be disruptive on the defensive end and fly around.”

While Indiana has led the Big Ten with 6.4 blocked shots per game, it has faltered when faced with containing opposing guards who can create space and knock down jump shots.

Freshman guard Bryce McGowens and senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr., who lead the Cornhuskers with 18.5 and 15 point averages, respectively, pose the biggest threats against the Hoosiers’ Big Ten-leading 35% defensive field goal percentage.

“I don’t think we’ve played extremely well out front as of late,” Woodson said. “Nebraska, they’re guard-driven, so we’re going to have to really lock in and defend off the dribble and make them make tough, contested shots.”

A big boost for Indiana’s own guard rotation came when senior guard Rob Phinisee returned against Syracuse from a three-game absence due to a leg injury. Woodson said although Phinisee isn’t feeling 100% yet, he will carry on as the Hoosiers’ first option off the bench because of his veteran leadership.

“It’s definitely a big game to test everybody’s defense and principles,” Kopp said. “It’s a great game for us to start off the Big Ten season.”

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