IU's Winning Streak Ends At Nebraska
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The streak is over.
Indiana has three days to bounce back from Tuesday night's 66-57 loss at Nebraska and deliver a regular-season home finale to remember against Ohio State.
For now, there is film to watch and ball security to regain. The Hoosiers' 19 turnovers -- which resulted in 26 Cornhusker points -- were a big reason why IU's four-game winning streak didn't grow to five.
The Hoosiers are 16-13 overall, 9-8 in the Big Ten, and very much aware of what might have been.
"We didn't take care of the ball from the opening tip," coach Archie Miller told Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer during the post-game radio show. "Coming out of halftime we couldn't get it under control and finished the game that way.
"We give up 19 second shots and turn it over 19 times on the road. You do that and you'll have a hard time winning."
Still, there were bright spots.
Forward Justin Smith once again played beyond his freshman youth. On Tuesday night he had 16 points and eight rebounds. That followed his 18 points at Iowa and 13 points against Illinois.
Guard Robert Johnson had found shooting magic during Indiana's winning streak, and that didn't change at Nebraska. He had 16 points and six rebounds, not far off the 18.3-point scoring average he had in the previous four games.
Forward Juwan Morgan added 13 points and nine rebounds.
It wasn't enough.
"For the most part I thought our guys battled," Miller told Fischer. "We had some guys step up and make some plays.
"It was anybody's game at the eight-minute mark. Then it started to get away from us a little bit. I'm really disappointed in the way we finished the last three minutes."
IU seemed primed to deliver an upset. It combined rejuvenated offense -- shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 47.3 percent from three-point range during its four-game winning streak -- with stifling defense that held its previous four opponents to 37.8 percent shooting and 30.7 percent beyond the arc.
Nebraska (21-9, 12-5) countered with postseason urgency. Its NCAA tourney at-large bid hopes took a huge hit with a Sunday loss at Illinois that snapped a six-game winning streak. Plus, the Cornhuskers were trying to hold off Michigan for the No. 4 seed in next week's Big Ten tourney.
The Hoosiers defended well enough to win, but struggles in rebounding (they gave up 19 offensive rebounds) and turnovers were too much to overcome.
"Defensively we played hard for long stretches," Miller said. "When you play as talented a team as they are at home, you're not going to be able to hold them down the whole time, but you can't give up 19 second shots and 19 turnovers. Look at their 26 points off turnovers and their 14 points off second chance. That's 40 points."
It was enough to turn victory into defeat.
"We didn't answer the bell from a toughness standpoint on the glass," Miller told Fischer. "They were quick to the long rebounds. The 50-50 balls we couldn't get.
"We had some inexplicable plays from a lot of guys, but our backcourt didn't deliver in terms of assist to turnovers."
Four early turnovers set an unwanted IU tone. Adding to the woes, starters Josh McRoberts and Freddie McSwain were both sidelined in the first seven minutes with a pair of fouls.
Still, IU gave itself a chance.
Johnson and Smith produced just enough offense, along with some rib-rocking defense, for the Hoosiers to take a 26-25 halftime lead.
IU opened the second half with three three-point plays in the first four minutes for a 37-35 lead. At that point, there were 11 lead changes.
A cliffhanger ending loomed.
The Hoosiers edged ahead 41-37. Nebraska roared back with a 10-0 run before Johnson ended it with a three-pointer.
There was time for a decisive Cream 'n Crimson charge.
The Hoosiers pushed to take the lead. Nebraska pushed back to keep it.
The edge went to the Cornhuskers.
So did the victory.
For IU, it comes down to a Friday night showdown against Ohio State, which is gunning to tie Michigan State for the Big Ten championship.
"We have a quick turnaround now against Ohio State," Miller told Fischer. "We need a packed house. We need a group that's really dialed in to play a team that is trying to win a league championship on our home floor."