Indiana's Will Sheehey (0) is fouled by Nebraska's Andre Almeida (32) as he dunks the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:45 pm
No. 1 Indiana holds off Nebraska 76-47
By MICHAEL MAROTAP Sports Writer
The Hoosiers spent the final 25 decimating it.
Cody Zeller fought through foul trouble to score 16 points, Christian Watford finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds and No. 1 Indiana eventually pulled away from the Cornhuskers for a resounding 76-47 victory.
"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."
Indiana certainly played like it wanted to stay atop the polls for a third straight week after getting a reprieve last week when all of the top five teams lost. If the Hoosiers beat Purdue again Saturday, there may not be much of a debate about who's No. 1.
To players, Wednesday night's 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."
Indiana (22-3, 10-2 Big Ten) has won seven of its last eight, rejoined Michigan State atop the league standings and is one win away from retaining the No. 1 spot for a third straight week.
After watching this game, Nebraska coach Tim Miles is convinced the Hoosiers belong there.
Zeller had 13 points in the second half and still finished as Indiana's top scorer despite playing a season-low 18 minutes. Watford made all six of his free throws and finished with another double-double. Victor Oladipo had 13 points and eight rebounds, and the Hoosiers were 8 of 16 from 3-point range, 6 of 9 in the second half.
They also held the Cornhuskers (12-13, 3-9) to 36.2 percent from the field and allowed only one player, Dylan Talley, to reach double figures. Talley finished with 16 points, 10 in the first half.
Nebraska has lost three of its last four and has lost 11 straight against No. 1 teams, dating to an upset of Missouri on Feb. 6, 1982.
"I thought it was transition more than anything," coach Tim Miles said of the Hoosiers' outside shooting over the final 20 minutes. "I just thought we couldn't quite get to everybody. I thought they had two or three (3-pointers) in transition that if you can't get back and line up your defense against these guys, you're really in trouble."
The Hoosiers made sure of it this time.
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."