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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Nebraska’s 3-point blitz dumps Indiana men’s basketball out of Big Ten Tournament

Iu vs Nebe -Big10--17.jpg

With the final seconds of the first half ticking away, Nebraska senior guard Keisei Tominaga stepped back and launched a 3-pointer so deep it could have been from a different area code. As it fell through the net for the Cornhuskers’ 12th triple of the frame, Tominaga placed both hands on his head, seemingly in awe of his own abilities. 

“Tominaga started getting hot, and it was call it a day from there,” Indiana sixth-year guard Xavier Johnson said postgame. 

It ended up being that kind of night for Indiana men’s basketball, who struggled to put the ball through the hoop while Nebraska sizzled from the floor. The Hoosiers’ 93-66 loss eliminated them from the Big Ten Tournament and crushed any potential NCAA Tournament hopes. 

Ironically, Indiana made more deep balls than its opponent in what well could have been the final 20 minutes of its season. Still, it was a season in which the 3-point line cursed the Hoosiers — especially against Nebraska — and the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss was the nail in the coffin. 

Nebraska was a similar opponent to Penn State, who Indiana conquered Thursday night in a 61-59 last-second win. Both teams swept the Hoosiers in the regular season and found success from the 3-point line in the process. Indiana was able to limit the Nittany Lions from the perimeter leading to a defensive-minded contest, something it likely desired against the Cornhuskers. 

Entering the game, Nebraska was the Big Ten’s most volumetric 3-point shooting team with 9.4 makes per game. In its two wins over Indiana this season, they averaged 13 triples in 15 and 16-point wins. The obvious focal point of Indiana’s defensive game plan, the 3-point line would determine Indiana’s fate, and as it had done all year, it was the Hoosiers’ burden once more. 

Nebraska junior guard Brice Williams was Indiana’s first antagonist behind the arc. He erupted for a 4-for-5 start behind the arc in the first 12 minutes of the game, but Indiana was keeping pace while trailing. Still, the Cornhuskers were firing with success and gradually expanding their lead, and it became apparent that a 3-point clinic was underway. 

Enter Tominaga. Nebraska’s leading scorer, who combined for 48 points with eight 3-pointers in two wins against the Hoosiers this season, had all eyes on him, but the magician found a way to create space to shoot. He started his barrage with a step back three in the right corner over Indiana freshman guard Gabe Cupps, then hit the same shot with his foot on the line the following possession. He was heating up and he knew it, both hands on his head to signal it. 

A calm stretch resided over the teams before Indiana free throws made the Hoosiers’ deficit 6 points with 3:29 remaining in the first half. Then, Tominaga and the Cornhuskers took off. 

Nebraska finished the frame on a 17-0 scoring run, kickstarted by back-to-back triples from Tominaga. Combined with a pair of free throws and two more 3-pointers before Tominaga’s deep ball capped off the half, Indiana suddenly trailed by 23 points with 20 minutes remaining. 

“They just started knocking down threes,” Johnson said. “We started losing defensively.” 

The Cornhuskers shot 12-for-20 (60%) from 3-point range in the first half and only made five other field goals while the Hoosiers shot a measly 8-for-32 from the field (25%). In the simplest terms, one team was hot, and the other was not. 

Unlike Indiana’s Feb. 21 loss to Nebraska when it threatened a 20-point halftime deficit and cut it to as low as 3 points, the Hoosiers appeared to run out of gas and motivation Friday night. Despite Nebraska only shooting 2-for-12 beyond the arc in the second frame, the score never got closer than 18 points and by the final buzzer the Cornhuskers expanded on their lead from the half. Indiana’s Big Ten Tournament hopes weren’t just ended, they were obliterated. 

Nebraska’s 14 3-pointers are tied for the third-most in single-game Big Ten Tournament history. It also tied its season-high mark, which it accomplished against Indiana on Feb. 21. 

In an era when the 3-point line is the most significant offensive area in basketball, Indiana seldom had the offensive firepower to use it as a difference maker all season. In the most fitting way, it was the Hoosiers’ demise in the finale. Friday night marked the 27th time Indiana made as many or less triples than its opponents in 33 games this season. 

With the program’s eyes set on recruiting and the transfer portal rather than postseason play like the NIT, IU Athletics confirmed Friday night, acquiring potent 3-point shooters may be at the top of the Hoosiers’ priority list in the offseason. After a season highlighted by being on the wrong side of 3-point disparities, Indiana’s outside shooting could be a vital area for next season. 

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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