3 reasons IU basketball beat Nebraska to open Big Ten play

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  • Anthony Leal
    American college basketball player

BLOOMINGTON — IU won its Big Ten opener against Nebraska on Saturday at Assembly Hall, 68-55. It overcame a slow start on offense and held onto a lead throughout the second half to start 1-0 in conference play.

Here are three reasons IU (7-1) came back in the first half and cruised in the second against Nebraska.

More: Hoosiers' young guards come off bench to spark IU past Nebraska in Big Ten opener

Doyel: Mike Woodson doesn't care who you are, he'll do things his way

Indiana's Xavier Johnson (0)  shoots in front of Nebraska's Alonzo Verge Jr. (1) during the first half of the Indiana versus Nebraska men's basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
Indiana's Xavier Johnson (0) shoots in front of Nebraska's Alonzo Verge Jr. (1) during the first half of the Indiana versus Nebraska men's basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Anthony Leal creates a spark

Mike Woodson said Friday Anthony Leal was ready for more playing time, that he had to find a way to work him into the rotation. And Woodson was right, Leal was ready.

IU started the game shooting 2-of-11 before Leal came in and had allowed a big Nebraska run. Leal entered the game and dropped a perfect assist to Trayce Jackson-Davis. On the next possession, he made a 3 and then immediately helped force a turnover on the defensive end.

It was the spark IU needed which began a 7-0 run. IU made five of its first seven shots after Leal came into the game. That spark helped wipe away a double-digit first half deficit and propel IU to its win. Leal had a +14 rating in the first half.

It was the rest of the bench, though, that kept that run going. One specific freshman in particular.

The Tamar Bates game?

Leal started the run, but IU came back to take the lead and push past Nebraska because of Tamar Bates.

Bates was stellar on both ends, but especially with his shooting. He scored 11 first half points including making three 3-pointers. He finished with 13 points.

After his second 3, Bates ran back to the bench and gave a chest bump to Michael Durr as a timeout was called. He’d given IU needed points, but energy too. His third 3-pointer was an off-balance heave as the shot clock expired that found a way to go down.

It was just his day.

He was part of an IU bench that carried the team back into the game. IU’s bench scored 18 of 26 first half points. In total the bench had 26 points after the starters began to play better in the second half. And about those starters:

Parker Stewart and IU’s starters finally settle in

A close game in the second half quickly got under IU's control as starters, and especially Parker Stewart, finally found some rhythm. Stewart has been IU’s best shooter this half and when he has his hottest streaks, the score card lights up in a hurry.

Stewart made three of his first four shots from 3 in the second half and suddenly IU’s lead had jumped out to 15 points. Nebraska would come back after another offensive drought, something no unit on IU was immune to Saturday, but IU never let go of the lead as Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson played far better on both ends than they did in the first half.

And behind those bigs, IU pushed the lead out one final and decisive time. Those starters scored 34 points in the second half compared to just eight from the bench.

Those starters played strong defense as well, limiting Nebraska to 5-of-22 — Nebraska was 1-of-14 at one point — from 3 and outrebounding the Huskers by nine boards. It kept Nebraska far below its season average coming in of nearly 80 points per game.

The offense was far from as productive as it was against Syracuse, but a few strong individual performances in short bursts gave IU enough of a push to win a game it was favored to win by double-digits.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: How Indiana basketball beat Nebraska to open Big Ten conference play

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