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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Keisei Tominaga’s offensive creativity puzzles Indiana men’s basketball in 85-70 loss

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For more photos, see PHOTOS: Indiana men's basketball falls flat against Nebraska

Controlling the ball on a transition play, Nebraska senior guard Keisei Tominaga played off a screen, stepped back and nailed a deep 3-pointer with the outstretched hand of Indiana freshman guard Gabe Cupps contesting the shot. Tominaga strut down to the defensive end flashing three fingers celebrating his triple to cap off a dominant 18-point first half. 

Tominaga’s 3-point barrage helped Nebraska create a 51-31 halftime lead that Indiana failed to overcome in an 85-70 defeat Wednesday night. Not only did Tominaga trouble the Hoosiers, but he also exemplified the kind of missing piece Indiana has desired all season long. 

The senior from Japan is no stranger to wreaking havoc on Indiana. When the two teams faced each other Jan. 3, Tominaga scored 28 points on 4-for-10 shooting from deep as Nebraska went on to win 86-70.  

Tominaga earned his buckets despite receiving plenty of defensive attention. Cupps took on the assignment to guard him, and fresh off holding Northwestern graduate student and All-Big Ten First Team guard Boo Buie to 3-for-14 shooting, there was reason to believe Cupps could handle the matchup. 

On several buckets, Cupps and the Hoosiers played good defense but got beat by better offense. Tominaga’s first basket came on a fastbreak, where he dribbled to the right corner and faked a drive before connecting on a step back 3-pointer over 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Malik Reneau. Another tough basket came when Tominaga drove inside and displayed his soft touch by arching the ball over 7-foot sophomore center Kel’el Ware for a floater.  

Tominaga knew he was hot from deep, and it helped create scoring opportunities inside for himself and outside for his teammates. First, he drove past Cupps then pulled up for a midrange jumper. A few possessions later, he pump faked from outside and attacked the rim before finding junior forward Juwan Gary for a triple. 

Indiana simply couldn’t stop the senior no matter how it contested him. As evident from his final 3-pointer to end the half, Tominaga was in a groove and Nebraska was playing at the pace he conducted with its 20-point lead.

“When you give up 51 points in the Big Ten in a half, you’re not going to beat anybody,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “We had no defensive effort the first half. We just weren’t up to touch.” 

However, things changed when Indiana senior guard Trey Galloway took over defensively and slowed Tominaga down in the second half. Not only did the defensive switch put Tominaga out of rhythm, but it did so to the team, creating an opening for the Hoosiers. 

Galloway locked Tominaga down as the Hoosiers started the frame with a 22-6 run and trailed by as little as 3 points. However, Indiana couldn’t contain the high-powered Cornhusker offense much longer and started to slip again. 

Of course, it was Tominaga who put the final nail in the coffin. He burned Galloway on a backdoor screen for a layup, and five minutes after trailing by 3 points, the Hoosiers were down 16 with six minutes remaining and never found themselves within single digits afterwards. 

Indiana’s second half defense was needed all game to seriously challenge Nebraska. After a 57.1% shooting performance in the first frame, Indiana held Nebraska to 39.3% from the field in the final 20 minutes, including 1-for-5 from Tominaga. However, the first half was all the Cornhuskers needed. 

Tominaga’s performance not only led Nebraska to its first Big Ten road win of the season, but it exploited an area of necessity on Indiana’s side. A confident shooter with a creative skillset, Tominaga is an archetype of a kind of player the Hoosiers could value. 

As the Hoosiers have struggled from the 3-point line and lack an aggressive, score-first guard, Tominaga displayed the kind of threat he can pose — and the kind of player Indiana could target in the future.  

Woodson said via Zoom on Tuesday that Indiana would have appreciated an extra guard — especially since sixth-year senior guard Xavier Johnson’s injury — but didn’t have time in last year’s recruiting cycle. With the Hoosiers’ low depth and scoring needs on display, Tominaga exemplified how valuable a player of his mold could be for the Hoosiers in the future. 

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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