BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Two seasons ago, the last time Tim Miles was here, he was fresh off one the worst losses of his career.
Ten days prior, Nebraska lost a gimme at home to Gardner-Webb. Entering the Indiana game, Nebraska was a double-digit underdog and just 6-6 on the season. The Hoosiers were ranked No. 16, having won 28 straight home games.
But in front of a sellout crowd at Assembly Hall, Miles walked off the court that night with a grin like he’d gotten away with something, and Indiana coach Tom Crean, bewildered, scowled like he’d been kicked in the shins.
Sophomore Glynn Watson scored 26 points and made five free throws in the final 14 seconds to seal an 87-83 upset.
“It was a great game for our program,” Miles said postgame. “Our guys showed a tremendous amount of resolve.”
Nebraska, of course, would end up plummeting the rest of the year. The Huskers would finish 12-19 on the season. But even in the worst Nebraska season in years, NU didn’t have many issues in Bloomington, an outlier of the Huskers’ historical struggles in conference road games. The Huskers will have another chance at an upset Monday at 5:30 p.m. against the No. 22 Hoosiers.
After two straight road losses and a six-point win over Penn State, Nebraska (12-4, 2-3) enters the matchup against Indiana (12-4, 3-2) as a two-point underdog. After a 16-15 season in Archie Miller’s first year, the Hoosiers are rejuvenated this year, thanks in part to star freshman Romeo Langford. The five-star, future NBA lottery pick scores 18.8 points per game and shoots 51 percent from the floor. And he gets ample help from senior Juwan Morgan, who scores 16 a game with 7.8 rebounds.
“The way I look at it, Indiana’s got one all-league first team player and a (NBA) lottery pick,” Miles said. “And they’re not the same person.”
Indiana’s best win this year came on Nov. 14 in a 96-73 win over Marquette, and the Hoosiers beat Louisville by one in mid-December. Two of IU’s four losses have come against Duke and Michigan, No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP poll .
Indiana will return home after two straight road losses to Michigan and Maryland. But historically, that’s not been an issue for Nebraska. Winning two out of four conference games at Assembly Hall is unique, especially if you look at how hard it has been for Nebraska to win away from home recently.
In Nebraska’s last 10 conference road games, the Huskers are 3-7. NU is 0-6 on the road against teams that either at the time were above .500, or would end up finishing .500. The three wins are against teams that finished at least two games below .500. So far this year, Big Ten home teams have won 62 percent of conference games, so Nebraska’s .300 winning percentage on the road isn’t a complete diversion from the norm.
But a .500 winning percentage in one of the toughest places to play in college basketball definitely stands out. Nebraska knocked off Indiana on the road in both December 2016, and March 2014. And in the last seven matchups both in Lincoln and Bloomington, the average score between the two teams is 69.1-68.7 in Indiana’s favor.
“Certainly a challenge to win at Assembly Hall, but we’ve been fortunate enough to do it a few times,” Miles said. “You have to go in there and have a real warrior’s mentality.”
Nebraska will welcome the return of sophomore Nana Akenten, who was ill during the Penn State game. NU starters have been playing serious minutes in conference play. None came out in the second half against Penn State. Miles said Akenten and the rest of the bench will have a chance to play Monday.
Though Nebraska’s struggled in its last three games rebounding, that’s not Indiana’s strength. It is 243rd in percentage of shots rebounded on offense. However, the Hoosiers are the seventh-best shooting team in the country, with a 57.5 effective field goal percentage. They make 58.8 percent of their shots from inside the arc, and are one of the fastest teams in the country. And Nebraska, despite its recent performances, is sixth in the country in effective field goal percentage defense and 11th in 2-point field goal percentage defense.
“We expect a tough ball game,” Miles said. “We know what we can do. We’re great at PBA, we’ve been OK on the road, we just haven’t won enough on the road.”
Nebraska at Indiana
When: 4:30 p.m.
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM
Nebraska (11-4, 1-3)
G Glynn Watson Sr. 6-0 13.4
G James Palmer Sr 6-6 19.5
G Thomas Allen So. 6-1 8.8
F Isaac Copeland Sr 6-0 14.7
F Isaiah Roby Jr 6-8 11.4
INDIANA (12-4, 3-2)
G Devonte Green Jr. 6-3 8.9
G Ajami Durham So. 6-4 8.3
G Romeo Langofrd Fr. 6-6 18.8
F Justin Smith Jr. 6-7 8.5
F Juwan Mogan Sr. 6-8 16.5