LINCOLN — It really doesn’t take much time for Indiana’s high-tempo, momentum-driven offense to bury the opponent.
Nebraska must know this as well as anyone after watching a four-point deficit balloon to 12 in two minutes of action back on Jan. 2. Two 3-pointers and two layups. That shaped the final nine minutes of Nebraska’s 79-69 home loss to the Hoosiers.
No. 22 Indiana turned a one-point lead into a 17-point advantage during the final seven first-half minutes against Illinois. The Hoosiers had a 28-0 run at Michigan. They overwhelmed both Northwestern and Ohio State at the start.
“They are a racehorse team — like the Indy 500, man,” NU coach Tim Miles said. “They come at you fast and furious.”
Particularly when they get into a shooting groove.
Michigan’s the only Big Ten team that has made and attempted more 3-pointers than Indiana in conference play. The Hoosiers rank seventh nationally in 3-point shooting (41.7 percent). Six Indiana regulars make at least 40 percent of their long-range shots.
That’s a concern for Nebraska, which is allowing Big Ten opponents to shoot 40 percent from 3-point range (the highest mark in the conference).
Miles said Husker guards aren’t as long as they have been in recent years, making it easier for ball handlers to survey the court and more difficult for NU to fill the passing lanes. Nebraska’s lack of height inside has also forced coaches to commit more bodies to paint defense — and the consequence of double teams or a collapsing zone tends to be wide open shooters.
But Miles said he’s adjusted a few elements of his system to help the Huskers cover the entire court more effectively. There just can’t be mental breakdowns or subpar effort.
They limited Penn State to 6 of 23 from 3-point range, and Miles said after Saturday’s game that the players hustled in their rotations and followed their assignments. Freshman Jack McVeigh indicated Tuesday that Nebraska needs that same discipline to limit Indiana’s potent offense.
“(It’s) positioning, knowing and predicting where the ball’s going to go,” he said. “And ball pressure’s a big part of it. Not letting them get it inside and then kick it out. All the little things will affect the open shots they get and how quickly we can rotate to those (shooters).”
The more the Huskers make Indiana work, the better the final result, according to Miles. They’d like to control the tempo, and the best way to do that is to slow the Hoosier offense, Miles said.
Taking care of the basketball and getting high-percentage shots would help, too.
But nothing is guaranteed with senior Shavon Shields out of the lineup for a third straight game. Shields, still recovering from a concussion, didn’t make the trip to Indiana.
Junior wing Andrew White had a career game against Penn State, accounting for half the team’s 70 points. But can he do it again? When White was limited at Wisconsin, NU could manage only 61 points, its lowest output in conference play.
Shields scored just 10 points against Indiana six weeks ago, but he had six assists — and four of those passes resulted in made 3-pointers.
“That is one of my greater fears — are we going to score enough?” Miles said. “We’re going to have to have some guys step up.”
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