Huskers facing mirror image in road tilt against No. 22 Indiana
If you squint hard enough, the team Nebraska plays Monday night starts to look a little like Nebraska.
Or maybe more than a little.
Las Vegas has installed the No. 22-ranked Indiana Hoosiers as one-point favorites in Monday night’s matchup with the Huskers at Assembly Hall in Bloomington. KenPom has Indiana favored by two in the game scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. tip on FS1. There is a high likelihood the game will be close.
And if it is close, it will be because the team in red and white resembles closely the team in white and maroon.
“It’s certainly a challenge to win at Assembly Hall, but we’ve been fortunate to do it a few times. You have to go in there and have a warrior’s mentality,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Sunday afternoon. “So we expect a tough ballgame.”
The squads share the same overall record at 12-4, with Indiana (3-2) one game ahead of Nebraska (2-3) in league play.
Both have first-team all-league caliber players in Juwan Morgan and James Palmer. Both have young stars with sky-high potential in Romeo Langford and Isaiah Roby.
Both shoot 47.1 percent from the field in Big Ten games. Both shoot 75 percent at the free-throw line. Both have similar scoring margins: Nebraska is plus-0.6 in conference games while Indiana is minus-0.4.
Indiana’s field-goal defense is sixth in the league at 43.0. Nebraska is seventh at 43.9. And both those defenses, after outstanding work in non-conference play, have begun to show cracks in the step up to league competition.
Both teams stink at rebounding the ball. Nebraska’s minus-7.2 rebounding margin is last in the league. Indiana isn’t much better at minus-3.8.
Both are undefeated at home. Both have had two-game losing streaks in the conference. Nebraska just ended theirs. Indiana’s second loss came Friday at Maryland, where the Hoosiers blew a multiple-possession second-half lead, just like the Huskers did a little more than a week earlier.
“I think our guys are locked in, dialed in and ready for Indiana, and I think that’s the most important part,” Miles said of trying to take momentum from Thursday’s win over Penn State. “We know what we can do. We’re great at Pinnacle Bank Arena. We’ve been OK on the road; we just haven’t won enough on the road.”
Nebraska has won in Bloomington, edging the Hoosiers by four in 2016 as part of a 3-0 start to conference play. It was a nine-point NU win last season in Lincoln.
The game will pit three of the Big Ten’s top 11 scorers against each other. Langford is second in conference games, averaging 22 points on 55 percent shooting. James Palmer Jr. is tied for seventh at just over 18 points per game. And Morgan is 11th at 16.5 points per game.
“They’re a tough, physical team, and they’re real good on the defensive side of the ball. I know that for a fact,” Palmer said Sunday. “I know they have two good players in Langford and Juwan Morgan.”
The game marks the last road trip of three in a four-game stretch for the Huskers. Three of the next four come at home, against some of the league’s best — Michigan State Thursday, and Ohio State and Wisconsin in two weeks.
But for a team that hasn’t won a Big Ten road game in more than 11 months (last February at Minnesota) there is little reason to be looking ahead.
“You don’t live and die by one game alone,” Miles said. “Because if you do that in this league, you’ll let a game maybe beat you twice, or if you’re such a champ that you won this game and you think it’s so important, then you won’t be ready for the next game.”