Indiana opens up Big Ten play with 79-69 win over Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. — Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell was right on time with another big performance for Indiana.
Ferrell scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half Saturday to lead the Hoosiers in a 79-69 victory over Nebraska three days after they turned in an uninspired effort in a road win over struggling Rutgers.
"Yogi’s done that before for us," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "Yogi may not be large in size, but his heart and his mindset and his toughness, that’s really big, and that’s what it has to be."
Ferrell, a 6-foot senior point guard, and 6-10 freshman center Thomas Bryant combined to make nine of their first 11 shots after halftime as the Hoosiers (12-3, 2-0 Big Ten) turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead and extended their winning streak to seven games.
Indiana went ahead for good, 47-46, when Ferrell beat the shot clock with a jumper from the wing to start a 17-5 spurt that O.G. Anunoby finished with back-to-back baskets.
Nebraska (8-7, 0-2) got 16 points apiece from Andrew White III and Jack McVeigh and 10 each from Shavon Shields and Benny Parker.
The Hoosiers were coming off a 79-72 win at Rutgers on Wednesday and playing their second game without 16-point scorer James Blackmon, who injured his right knee in practice Monday.
Bryant played only six minutes against Rutgers and fouled out, and the Scarlet Knights converted Indiana’s season-high 23 turnovers into 37 points. Max Bielfeldt came to the Hoosiers’ rescue with a career-high 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Bielfeldt was scoreless Saturday until he made three free throws in the last 45 seconds. The Hoosiers needed them, too, after struggling from the line late in the game. Nebraska got within 74-69 on McVeigh’s 3-pointer with 41 seconds left.
But the Huskers again had no answer for a freshman big man. Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon had 28 points on Wednesday in his second college game, and Indiana’s Bryant was 8 for 10 from the floor.
"It was great to have Thomas Bryant come back after having a tough day against Rutgers with the fouls and play to the level that he did," Crean said. "He did a great job offensively, but I think he was in for 27 possessions in the second half and they scored seven times in those. So, to me, that’s really important."
Bryant did some extra work in the gym after the Rutgers game and looked every bit the part of a McDonald’s All-American against Nebraska.
"I couldn’t dwell on the Rutgers game," he said. "I had to move on and get ready for this one, (and) I had a good game."
Nebraska, which led Northwestern by three points at halftime on Wednesday and lost by nine, shot 51.7 percent the first 20 minutes and was up 39-36.
White’s 3-pointer on Nebraska’s first possession after the break made it a six-point lead, but the Huskers shot just 34.6 percent in the second half and 43.6 percent for the game
"I was face-guarded pretty much the whole game, usually by a shorter guy," White said. "Yogi Ferrell was on me the majority of the game playing me nose-to-nose, and one thing I noticed is he wasn’t necessarily looking at the action off the ball. His priority was to keep me from getting the ball and did a pretty good job of that."
For all the offense he provided, Ferrell was most pleased with the defensive effort.
"We have things to work on in practice, but this is another step in the direction we need to take defensively," Ferrell said. "Playing at Nebraska is tough. It’s a great team and great fans. For us to get a road win is big for us."
Indiana: Shot 54.9 percent from field and made 9 of 18 3-pointers. … Ferrell had seven assists and Bryant blocked three shots.
Nebraska: Has opened Big Ten play with at least two straight losses each of the five seasons it’s been in the conference. … McVeigh was assessed a technical foul in the first half for jawing at Collin Hartman after the two battled for a rebound.
HOOSIERS MISS BLACKMON
Crean said Blackmon’s right knee is still being evaluated and no timetable has been set for his return. Ferrell says the sooner Blackmon comes back the better.
"We definitely do miss James," he said. "He’s another threat for us, someone else they have to guard, someone who can open up the lane a little more for guys like me, Thomas, Troy (Williams) — guys who like to drive to the rim."
Indiana: Hosts Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Nebraska: Visits Iowa on Tuesday.