Nebraska (8-5) had more size, more experience and a home-court advantage on its side when Indiana (11-3) came to Lincoln, Neb., but none of that mattered. The Hoosiers bounced back from their loss to Georgetown with a 70-65 win against the Cornhuskers in their Big Ten opener.
After falling behind 7-2, the Hoosiers regained an 8-7 lead thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Robert Johnson and a trio of rebounds from Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Both players were sidelined after Johnson crashed hard to the floor after he was fouled by Shavon Shields, falling on his right hip and shoulder, and after Mosquera-Perea picked up two quick fouls.
When Indiana needed a lift with two starters on the bench, Emmitt Holt and Troy Williams answered the call. Holt made an immediate impact, beating all five Cornhusker players down the court to score a lay-up in transition. He scored the Hoosiers’ next four points while also grabbing three rebounds and blocking or altering multiple shots on defense.
Then the Troy Williams show commenced. He scored nine points in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting, cutting through Nebraska’s defense with tight handles and smooth finishes at the rim.
Indiana’s frontcourt battled foul trouble, with Mosquera-Perea, Williams and Collin Hartman all picking up two fouls in the first half.
The Hoosiers led 38-22 at one point in the first half, but Nebraska closed the half on a 10-2 run.
Indiana coach Tom Crean & Co. may have experienced déja vu Wednesday night because the Hoosiers led by 13 at halftime on the road against Nebraska last season before being outscored by 18 points in the second half and losing the game.
The Cornhuskers went on a 24-4 run that spanned both halves to retake the lead for the first time in the game since they led 7-5.
However, Indiana was able to take a punch and respond with a punch of its own, going on an 18-4 run.
Mosquera-Perea took over in the second half after recording only one point and three rebounds in four minutes in the first half. He threw down two monster alley-oops from Yogi Ferrell and showed finesse around the rim. The junior was dominant on the boards, crashing the glass with every shot attempt and securing rebounds with two hands. As a team, Indiana was tough on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 44-31.
Mosquera-Perea, who had his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, was one of three Hoosiers to score in double figures. Johnson had 14 points and Williams had 13.
After getting only two points off of the bench against Georgetown, Indiana had 18 bench points. Holt and Stanford Robinson chipped in six points each off the bench.
Indiana’s lead climbed to 13 after Mosquera-Perea made a lay-up with 4:50 left in the game, but Nebraska wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Cornhuskers’ big three of Terran Petteway, Shields and Walter Pitchford fueled a comeback attempt as Nebraska pulled within three with 65 seconds remaining.
Indiana caught a break in the final minute when Nebraska’s David Rivers couldn’t corral a rebound and knocked it out of bounds, giving the Hoosiers a fresh shot clock with 35.2 seconds remaining in the game. Nick Zeisloft, who was 1-of-6 on the night, was fouled and made both ends of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the free throw line to give Indiana a five-point lead.
Then it was Yogi Ferrell, who had a quiet scoring night, who made another winning play late in the game. After James Blackmon Jr. missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Petteway grabbed the rebound, but Ferrell knocked the ball loose and it went out of bounds off of Petteway’s knee.
In six of Indiana’s Big Ten losses last season, the Hoosiers went into halftime with the lead. This was a game that the Hoosiers would have lost last season, but they found a way to grind out a win on a night when Ferrell and Blackmon Jr. were a combined 4-of-16. Indiana’s supporting cast stepped up and the team showed resilience during several big scoring runs by Nebraska.
With the win, Indiana improved to 11-3 (1-0) before going on the road for its next game against Michigan State on Jan. 5.