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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

INSTANT RECAP: Xavier Johnson returns, Nebraska thrashes Indiana men's basketball 86-70

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After closing its non-conference schedule with three consecutive wins, Indiana men’s basketball looked to start 2024 on the right foot at Nebraska on Wednesday night. It wasn’t able to do so as the Cornhuskers trounced the Hoosiers 86-70 to hand Indiana its fourth loss of the season and first Big Ten loss. 

Indiana started the game on fire by scoring on its first four possessions. Three of the baskets came from sophomore center Kel’el Ware, who returned after missing the Hoosiers’ Dec. 29 contest against Kennesaw State University due to COVID-19. 

One of Indiana’s biggest 3-point threats was taken out early due to foul trouble. Freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako — who made a deep ball on Indiana’s third possession — committed his second foul less than five minutes into the half. He played seven minutes in the frame. 

It didn’t take long for the Hoosiers to slow down. Poor shots not even touching the rim and turnovers piling up allowed Nebraska to quickly switch the momentum in its favor, turning a 9-4 deficit into an 18-13 lead eight minutes in. 

Indiana brought its deficit to 1, but more turnovers and proficient shooting from Husker junior guard C.J. Wilcher created another Nebraska run. Wilcher started 3-for-3 from long range as Nebraska took a 30-21 lead at the 7:22 mark. In his first game since Nov. 26 against Harvard University, senior guard Xavier Johnson started slowly with four turnovers in his first eight minutes on the court. 

Foul trouble continued to haunt the Hoosiers. Sophomore forward Malik Reneau committed his second infraction with 6:50 left in the first half and was substituted for the remainder of the frame. 

Ware attempted to carry the load for Indiana but couldn’t keep up by himself and Nebraska continued to steadily pull away. With two minutes remaining in the frame, the Cornhuskers nabbed their first double-digit lead of the contest before entering the break with a 41-33 lead.  

Ware closed the half with 12 points and six rebounds — leading both teams in both marks for the first frame.  

Nebraska picked up right where it left off to start the second half. It scored 5 early points to build a 13-point lead, prompting a timeout from Indiana head coach Mike Woodson. 

Ware continued to dominate in an attempt to help Indiana creep closer. After a made free throw, the 7-footer slammed home back-to-back alley-oop dunks. 

The Hoosiers started to gain momentum after a 3-pointer from freshman guard Gabe Cupps cut the deficit to 9 points and soon after, Reneau made one of his own to put it at 8. However, junior guard Brice Williams made his second deep ball of the contest. Then, Indiana sophomore forward Kaleb Banks fouled the Cornhuskers on a 3-point attempt, where sophomore guard Sam Hoiberg converted all three free throws to make it a 14-point game. 

The game’s themes continued to prevail as Nebraska started to run away. Senior guard Keisei Tominaga became the hot hand and Indiana could not stop turning the ball over before a Williams 3-pointer gave the Cornhuskers a 20-point lead with seven minutes remaining. The Hoosiers endured a near-5-minute drought without a field goal.  

Nebraska cruised to close out the game. It finished the game 12-for-32 from three and 20-for-26 from the free throw line, dwarfing Indiana in both marks. The Hoosiers committed a season-high 19 turnovers. 

Tominaga led all scorers with 28 points, one of four Huskers in double digits. Ware scored 20 as one of three Hoosiers with 10+ points. Johnson was held scoreless in 15 minutes of action in his return. 

The loss puts Indiana’s record at 10-4 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Next up for the Hoosiers is an 8 p.m. matchup against Ohio State on Saturday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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