Despite suffering a loss last week, the Indiana Hoosiers maintained their spot atop the AP poll, and they'll put their No. 1 ranking on the line in Wednesday night's Big Ten Conference clash with the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Nebraska comes in sporting an even 12-12 mark on the year, and its 3-8 league ledger has it in 11th place in the 12-team Big Ten. The Cornhuskers beat up on last-place Penn State over the weekend, 67-53, at home, and a win in this bout, while would be shocking to say the least, would give the team three wins in its last five games. Nebraska is just 2-6 in true road games this season, and it only has won conference road win, that also coming against Penn State back on Jan. 19.
Indiana began the season as the No. 1 team in the land, but a tough loss to Butler in mid-December dropped it from the lofty perch. The Hoosiers resurfaced as the top team last week after defeating previous No. 1 Michigan on Feb. 2, but 74-72 loss at Illinois five days later put that in jeopardy once again. The team bounced back to post a solid 81-68 win at Ohio State on Sunday, and that coupled with losses by the nation's other top teams kept the Hoosiers No. 1 for at least one more week. Indiana is 14-1 at home this season, and its 9-2 conference mark has it a half game back of first-place Michigan State in the Big Ten standings.
Indiana owns an 8-2 lead in the all-time series with Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers won last year's tussle in Lincoln, stunning the 11th-ranked Hoosiers in a 70-69 final. This bout marks Nebraska's first trip to Bloomington since it dropped a 97-60 decision to Indiana in the championship game of the 1974 Hoosier Classic.
Dylan Talley scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Brandon Ubel nearly had a double-double with 14 points and nine boards, and those efforts helped propel Nebraska past visiting Penn State over the weekend. Ray Gallegos added 11 points and five rebounds for the Cornhuskers, who won the game rather easily, despite shooting a mere 32.6 percent from the field, which included a dreadful 5-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. A 32-23 edge in points from the foul line certainly helped, as did the fact that it committed only eight turnovers and held the Nittany Lions to a paltry a .292 field goal percentage. Gallegos (13.3 ppg, 34 steals), Talley (13.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Ubel (11.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) are all averaging double figures in the scoring column this season, but the team as a whole is netting a league-low 59.0 ppg. The Huskers are one of only three teams in the Big Ten with a negative rebounding margin (-2.2), but they are permitting just 61.9 ppg, which is only 1.5 points from ranking the squad in the top-four in the conference.
From the worst scoring team in the league to the best, Indiana is putting up a gaudy 83.2 ppg, which actually ranks it second in the nation entering the week. Continuing with the Hoosiers' many other top billings, they lead the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.502), 3-point field goal percentage (.425), and field goal percentage defense (.382). IU boasts four double-digit scorers, with All-America candidate Cody Zeller leading the way with 16.5 ppg, to go with 8.3 rpg, 31 blocks and 27 steals. Not to mention, he is a 60.5 percent shooter from the field, who also happens to convert nearly 75 percent of his free throws. Victor Oladipo (14.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg. 2.5 apg), Christian Watford (13.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Jordan Hulls (10.8 ppg, 3.3 apg) add plenty of punch in the starting five, while sixth-man Will Sheehy (9.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) also makes an impact most nights. Oladipo scored a career-high 26 points, Zeller tacked on 24 and Watford finished with 20 to lead Indiana to a huge road win over Ohio State last time out. As a team, the Hoosiers drained 53.1 percent of their total shots compared to 42.4 percent for the Buckeyes. IU hit seven treys to OSU's three, and the Hoosiers outscored the home team at the foul line, 22-15.