The Associated Press
Nebraska turned back the clock with its deliberate offense Wednesday night. For a while, it worked at No. 1 Indiana.
Then the two teams reverted to form. Cody Zeller scored 16 points, Christian Watford had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Indiana spent the final 25 minutes turning a close game into a 76-47 rout.
"We were in foul trouble most of the night. You get to a certain point and it feels like you're on the Titanic - it's just one guy after another," coach Tim Miles said. "When Brandon Ubel was in the game, I thought we were at our best, we just couldn't get him on the floor enough. We really couldn't take advantage of Cody Zeller being in foul trouble, and that was too bad because there were some opportunities with him out of the game. It was an opportunity lost."
As well as another game.
The Cornhuskers (12-13, 3-9 Big Ten) have now dropped three of their last four and are 0-4 all-time in Bloomington. They have also dropped 11 straight games against No. 1 teams, dating to an upset of Missouri on Feb. 6, 1982.
And they don't get much worse than this.
Dylan Talley was the only Nebraska player to reach double figures, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first half. The Huskers shot just 36.2 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and committed 10 first-half turnovers after coming into the game averaging 10.9.
The combination was too much to overcome even on a night they routinely ran the shot clock under 10 seconds in an effort to limit the number of possessions.
"I thought that we were playing at our pace for a long time. We ended up playing close to 70 possessions," Miles said. "The trouble in the second half came with their 3-point shooting and their ability to get to the foul line. They are always on the attack. That's just how they are."
And when they play like they did over the final 25 minutes, the Hoosiers (22-3, 10-2) are as tough to beat as any team in America. They have won seven of eight, rejoined Michigan State atop the league standings and are one win away from retaining the No. 1 spot for a third straight week.
"We're not trying to set records, we're trying to win a national championship," coach Tom Crean said. "But at the end of the day, if you want to win big, you have to play a lot of different ways, and our guys did that and they stayed true to the game plan."
To players, the game felt like two in one.
The first was frustrating as Nebraska repeatedly ran the shot clock inside of 10 seconds and refused to let Indiana speed up the pace. But the Hoosiers refused to crack under the pressure by taking care of the ball and waiting patiently for a chance to make their move.
When they got the opening, the Hoosiers quickly reverted to form and seized control as the defense clamped down, the shooters warmed up, and instead of folding when Zeller went to the bench with two fouls midway through the first half, they surged.
Nebraska simply couldn't keep up.
"They do pack the lane and when everybody started to knock down open shots that started to open the floor for everybody. I think that is what we have to do," Hoosiers guard Maurice Creek said. "When the lane is packed, people have got to knock down 3s, mid-range pull-ups, to open it up for the post players. When it's clogged on our side, then the post players have to do their work and they did tonight. They did a good job."
Nebraska made its first four shots and led for almost the entire first 12 minutes. But when Zeller departed, things changed. Indiana sped up the game, forcing Nebraska into 10 first-half turnovers.
And then the shots started falling. Will Sheehey got the first spurt started with a layup to trim Nebraska's lead to 14-13. Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell followed that with a 3-pointer to give Indiana its first lead with 8:05 left in the half. Oladipo hit another 3, and Jordan Hulls capped the 10-0 run with another layup to make it 21-14.
Nebraska came right back with four straight points, but the Hoosiers finished the half with six straight free throws to make it 27-18 and finished off the Cornhuskers quickly in the second half.
Zeller started the next run with a spectacular block. His teammates responded with six straight points, forcing Nebraska to call time out. And Indiana closed it out with a 19-4 run midway through the second half that made it 58-32 with 7:40 to go.
Nebraska never got close again.
"I think that's just the growth of older guys having a better understanding," Crean said when asked about the Hoosiers' patience. "We have 27 at the half but yet we end up with 76 and win by 29. That's really good."