For Indiana to achieve its ultimate goal, the Hoosiers will have to win some games like they did Wednesday night.
With the shots not falling in the first half, Indiana used its defense to roll past Nebraska 76-47 on Wednesday night.
The Hoosiers (22-3, 10-2 Big Ten) only scored 27 points in the first half, shooting just 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) from the field before halftime.
“We’re not trying to set records. We’re trying to win a national championship,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “At the end of the day, if you want to win big you have to play a lot of different ways.”
IU opened the second half with a 7-0 run and kept rolling from there.
“We definitely wanted to start the second half off fast,” Christian Watford said. “We wanted to play our style of basketball. We felt like we were kind of letting them lure us in a little bit in the first half. We definitely wanted to get out in the second half and share the basketball.”
The Hoosiers didn’t have much chance to get out and run early against the Huskers (12-13, 3-9), whose game plan was to use every possible second of the shot clock.
It didn’t pay off, with Nebraska shooting just 17-of-47 (36.2 percent) from the field.
The Hoosiers weren’t much better. Cody Zeller had a cold first half, much like his teammates. Zeller was 0-for-2 from the field in the first half and 3-of-6 from the line.
Zeller also played just nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, but that didn’t change Indiana’s offensive plan.
“I don’t feel like our style of play changed,” Watford said.
The Hoosiers led the Huskers 27-18 at the break by hitting 13-of-16 free throws, compared to Nebraska’s 4-of-4 showing at the line. It was the fifth time this season Indiana held an opponent under 20 first-half points.
IU didn’t make a basket for a 10:14 stretch of the first half, going 0-for-8 from the field between Watford’s layup at 18:59 and Will Sheehey’s layup at 8:45.
IU found its touch in the second half, shooting 16-of-29 from the floor. Zeller had 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, going 4-for-7 from the field and 5-of-5 at the line after halftime.
“I think he played excellent in the second half,” Crean said of Zeller. “He didn’t like sitting over there (on the bench). He knew they were going to come after him for that third (foul).”
“We really couldn’t take advantage of Cody Zeller being in foul trouble for Indiana, and that was too bad, because there were some opportunities with him out of the game,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “Unfortunately, it was an opportunity lost.”
Watford and Victor Oladipo added 13 points each, with Watford grabbing 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season and the 17th of his career.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Sheehey said. “I think it comes off his defensive rebounding.”
Dylan Talley was the lone Nebraska player to score in double figures, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
“We just wanted to play defense,” Maurice Creek said. “When we started playing defense and locking them down in the second half, everything got accomplished for us.”
“That’s just the growth of older guys having a better understanding (of relying on defense to lead to offense),” Crean said.
Nebraska has now lost 11 straight to No. 1 teams since a Feb. 6, 1982 win over Missouri.