In Indiana men’s basketball’s loss to Syracuse University last Tuesday, the team’s bench scored just 10 of its 110 points. The second unit responded Saturday, scoring 18 of the team’s 26 first-half points against Nebraska in a 68-55 win at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Freshman guard Tamar Bates led the team in first-half scoring with 11 points. No other Hoosier scored more than 4 points before halftime.
Bates finished with a career-high 13 points on 4-9 shooting in the game after going 1-5 from the field and 0-4 from 3-point range against Syracuse. He took seven of the team’s 22 3-pointers against Nebraska and hit three of them.
“Shooters shoot,” Bates said at the postgame press conference. “I'm going to keep shooting the ball. I can miss 10 threes, I'm going to shoot the 11th one.”
Bates also finished 2-2 from the free-throw line, where the Hoosiers shot 14-17 for the game. In his 24 minutes on the court, the Hoosiers outscored the Cornhuskers by 16 points, which was higher than anyone else on the team.
Bates, who decommitted from the University of Texas and committed to Indiana this April, has led the team in halftime scoring twice in his first eight games as a Hoosier.
“He's not scared of the moment,” head coach Mike Woodson said. “I like everything about Tamar. That's why he's here wearing an Indiana uniform.”
Indiana went into halftime ahead of Nebraska 26-22 after trailing 14-4 early in the first half. Three of Indiana’s five starters — senior guards Parker Stewart and Xavier Johnson and senior forward Miller Kopp — didn’t score any points in the first half. Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior forward Race Thompson each scored 4 points.
With their starters in the game, the Hoosiers scored just 6 points in the first 10 minutes, getting off to a sluggish start after the first unit combined for 100 points in their last game. Jackson-Davis and Kopp combined for seven first-half turnovers.
“We came in slow and not really into the game, we were flat, man,” Woodson said. “We had good looks early. But they built I think a 10-point lead at one time, and so I had to change it up, went to the bench and our bench was fantastic tonight coming in.”
Indiana’s starting unit picked it up in the second half, combining for 34 points after the halftime break. The team only needed 8 points from its bench players in the second half, which senior guard Rob Phinisee scored 5 of on 2-4 shooting after an 0-3 start in the first half.
Phinisee added four rebounds and three assists in relief of Johnson, who got in foul trouble early in the second half. He played 13 of his 24 minutes in the second half and helped cut Indiana’s turnovers from 11 in the first half to four in the second.
After the game, Thompson said the team believes in its second unit and trusts them to make big shots.
“We have starters coming off the bench,” Thompson said. “I think that's just what makes a good team.”
Sophomore guard Anthony Leal played 10 minutes in the first half, making a 3-pointer and putting up a steal and two assists. Leal, who has played 36 minutes across four games, has shot 7-9 from the floor and 4-6 from 3-point range this season.
“He's been very competitive in practice,” Woodson said about Leal. “I came in tonight knowing I was going to play him, and he responded, which was kind of nice to see.”
Indiana moved to 7-1 with the win and 1-0 in Big Ten play. The team will face Wisconsin in its next game at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin, where it is 0-10 since 2010.