Six days after a rude awakening at Creighton, a refocused Nebraska team fell just short of an upset win at Assembly Hall, dropping its Big Ten Conference opener at Indiana 96-90 in overtime.
Junior guard Dachon Burke made a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute of regulation, with the latter of the two coming with one second left to force overtime. The shot capped a furious comeback over the final four minutes of regulation, where the Huskers erased an eight-point deficit.
In overtime, momentum wasn’t enough for Nebraska to complete the upset, as Indiana sophomore guard Rob Phinisee scored seven of Indiana’s first eight points of the five minute period to take control for good.
Burke and Indiana freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis led all scorers with 25 points apiece, and Nebraska senior guard Haanif Cheatham added 21 in a losing effort. Junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson started in place of recently suspended guard Jervay Green, and scored 17 points on 7-12 shooting.
Playing its sixth consecutive game away from home, Nebraska’s start on Friday night nearly mirrored the one it had at Creighton. The Huskers were sloppy on both ends of the floor and fell behind 11-2 again, but this time they had a much quicker response.
Hoiberg burned his first timeout of the game just three minutes in, and out of the break the Huskers mounted a 14-2 run over the next four minutes to take the lead.
It was a back-and-forth affair for the rest of the half, with the lead changing hands 11 times. The Hoosiers were close to pulling away near the end of the half, but a 3-pointer in the final minute by Cam Mack sent the Huskers into the break trailing by one.
In the second half, Jackson-Davis immediately asserted himself after a quiet opening period by scoring a putback attempt and flushing a dunk to push the lead to five. Once again, the Huskers quickly clapped back with a three from Burke and a layup by Thorbjarnarson. Another 3-pointer from Mack two minutes later gave Nebraska the lead again, but it was short-lived.
Indiana sophomore forward Race Thompson hit a layup to give Indiana the lead with 14 minutes left, and the Hoosiers would hold that lead until the final second of regulation. The teams traded baskets for the next eight minutes before the Hoosiers strung together four consecutive stops and made free throws to take a 71-63 lead with 4:19 left.
To start the final rally, Thorbjarnarson was the spark plug once again. The junior from Iceland buried a 3-pointer, then finished a layup to make it a five point game with 3:07 left. Then Burke jumped a passing lane and finished a breakaway dunk to make it a three-point game.
A missed layup by Mack followed by a made layup in transition by Phinisee seemed to put the game away for the Hoosiers, as they held a 78-72 lead with 42 seconds left. Instead, Cheatham drew a foul and made both free throws and Indiana sophomore Damezi Anderson threw the inbounds pass out of bounds.
Trailing by four with 36 seconds left, Burke buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key and was fouled, giving him a chance to tie the game from the free throw line. Instead, the 57.5 percent free throw shooter had his only miss of the night and Nebraska had to foul to extend the game.
After Phinisee made both of his free throw attempts with 10 seconds left, Mack quickly drove the ball up the court and pitched it back to a trailing and open Burke, who buried the deep and uncontested trey to force overtime and stun the candy-striped faithful.
In overtime, the Huskers quickly fell behind by six again with 1:23 left, and this time did not have enough gas in the tank to rally. Nebraska had a chance to make it a one-score game with just under 20 seconds left, but Mack’s desperation 3-pointer was off the mark and freshman forward Kevin Cross missed a free throw attempt that would have made it a three-point game with eight seconds left.
After the loss, Hoiberg sounded far more pleased with his team’s effort in this game than the one it gave in the first half at Creighton, praising the players preparation during the week.
The loss is Nebraska’s third consecutive, and moves them to 4-6 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. The Indiana win at home also continued the streak of all 11 home teams winning the first 11 games of conference play.
The Huskers will hope to continue that trend shortly, when they host Purdue (6-3, 1-0) on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.