Hoosiers open Big Ten play against struggling Nebraska
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- No. 16 Indiana begins defense of its Big Ten regular-season championship on Wednesday when Nebraska visits Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers (10-2) have breezed through their non-conference home schedule unblemished with nine victories by an average of 30.8 points and have won 26 in a row at home, the fifth-longest streak in program history and fourth best among active streaks in the country.
The Cornhuskers (6-6) have lost both of their road games, 89-72 at No. 3 Kansas and 60-58 at Clemson. Indiana knocked off No. 3 Kansas 103-99 in overtime in the season opener at Hawaii.
In their most recent action, Indiana tied a season high with 15 3-pointers in a 97-62 home rout of Austin Peay six days ago and Nebraska defeated Southern 81-76 at home on Dec. 20.
Indiana leading scorer James Blackmon Jr., who missed conference play a season ago with a knee injury, is anxious to play Big Ten competition. The junior guard averages 18.5 points and is shooting .457 from 3-point range (37 of 81).
"I'm looking forward to it a lot really, what I've been looking forward to since the beginning of this season," Blackmon said after the Austin Peay win. "It's hard not to look forward to games and not look over one team. But now that it's here, (I) continue to work hard in practice and out of practice and just take care of business when it comes."
The Hoosiers swept the Cornhuskers last season with a pair of double-digit victories.
While the Cornhuskers are 0-3 against ranked opponents this season, the Hoosiers are 3-1, including a 76-67 home victory over No. 3 North Carolina.
Nebraska has also had a humbling home loss to Gardner Webb, which prompted phone-in criticism from callers to coach Tim Miles' radio show. He's 69-73 in five seasons at Nebraska, 352-293 overall in 22 seasons.
"I understand the frustration," Miles said on the show. "At the same time, that doesn't make me believe less in myself or our players or our staff. I think we're very close to doing some outstanding things."
The Cornhuskers were 11th in the 14-team Big Ten with a 6-12 mark last season and finished 16-18 overall, which provided fodder for doubters.
Nebraska is averaging 69.2 points and allowing 67.7 points per game. Tai Webster, a senior guard from New Zealand, is scoring a team-best 17 points per game. Sophomore guard Glynn Watson Jr. is averaging 12.6 points. Sophomore forward Ed Morrow Jr. is averaging 10.4 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds.
Indiana, 15-3 in the Big Ten and 27-8 overall last season, is again one of the nation's most explosive offenses with an 88.8-point average while allowing opponents 66 points per game.
Aside from Blackmon, Indiana junior guard Robert Johnson averages 13.8 points. Sophomore forward OG Anunoby and sophomore center Thomas Bryant are scoring 12 points per game. Bryant leads the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game.
The Hoosiers are shooting .401 from 3-point range (117 of 292), making an average of 9.75 3-pointers per game. They've also limited opponents to just .270 3-point shooting (70 of 259).
The Cornhuskers' perimeter defense has been an issue at times as opponents have hit 78 of 218 (.358) while Nebraska has made just 65 of 222 3-pointers (.293).
Indiana coach Tom Crean, 2015-16 Big Ten Coach of the Year, has a 158-121 record in nine seasons at the school, 348-217 overall in 18 seasons.