Walter Pitchford is our "slam dunk" Player of the Game after starting things off with NU's first 9 points.
Obviously its IMPERATIVE to get off to a good start on the road, as NU did in two of its three road wins this year (MSU and tonight). Had Pitchford not "brought it" early, things would have likely been different.
Walt finished with 17 points (on 7-10 shooting) and 9 rebounds.
I also want to say that the most important shot of the game was made by RAY GALLEGOS, who FINALLY somewhat broke out of his slump and looked fairly confident in doing so.
The shot I'm referring to is the three that Gallegos hit at the end of the first half. It took NU from a 5 to 8 point lead and gave them back momentum, not too mention allowed them some much needed breathing room (as we found out in the second).
The back to back three's in the second was also huge when Terran Petteway was out of the game with three fouls.
Really, everyone who played tonight contributed offensively, from Petteway to Shavon Shields to Benny Parker to Leslee Smith. The only Husker to not score was Tai Webster, but his penetration set up offense for others (including an early dunk for Pitch) and he looked much better in this game than he has in the last few.
Nebraska shot 46% from the field in scoring 70 points and finished with a solid 74% from the line. Though honestly, they weren't good in the first 38 minutes from that spot on the court, including a HUGE miss by Shields on the one and one with NU up 4. I really thought that might come back and bite us at the time.
Sans the first ten minutes of the second half, NU was AWE-SOME defensively.
I give them a downgraded "A" because of that and the fact that our defense was quite slow and lazy getting back off of misses. There were a couple of awful instances of that, most notably in the aforementioned first ten minutes of the second frame.
NU must have shown Indiana four different looks defensively and did an outstanding job of finding shooters and keeping a hand in their faces.
Yet ANOTHER NU opponent shot below 40% (the Hoosiers finished at 37%).
With everyone talking so much about Petteway's offense and the three headed monsters of Petteway-Shields-Pitchford, its important to remember that DEFENSE is the main reason why we are where we are.
Nebraska got gassed in the second half, and it showed on the glass, as IU pulled down FOURTEEN offensive rebounds and outboarded NU for the night +1 (37 to 36).
Besides Pitchford's game leading nine rebounds, Shields finished with eight.
I am concerned about how NU matches up with Wisconsin on the glass, but have a weird feeling we are going to get Wisconsin big men into foul trouble and the crowd will put us just over the top.
BALL HANDLING: A
Indiana put zero pressure on NU, but it doesn't matter - in a road environment, Nebraska turned the ball over just NINE times (though it did lead to 13 points).
As mentioned above, very nice guy for Tai - 2 assists and 1 turnover. Opposing fans who don't understand this team and who don't watch the games might laugh at me saying that, but he responded well tonight and did a very good job of running the offense.
Why do you suppose Gallegos was allowed to shoot so much against Northwestern and tonight? Why do you suppose he was so confident to do so and not at all gun shy?
Because of his head man, who fully realizes that if we're going to make the NCAA Tournament, we MUST get Ray going.
Tonight may not be considered a "red hot night" for our friend from Utah, but its a giant step in the right direction and there's no doubt we don't win without those three's, especially the one before half. The whole dynamic of the game changed on that shot.
Also, Miles shut down Indiana with insane defensive schemes and adjustments - and continues to do so. Of course I'm not stupid - the PLAYERS technically did it - but come on... how in the hell can you possibly explain the turnaround we've had on defense since Charleston? You can't other than giving Miles, Smith, Harriman, Hunter, Owens, et. all credit.
Hell, I want to give Shamus credit, too. He does a hell of a job with the media relations. Everyone deserves credit - even the friar at the "State Fair" stand at the PBA who makes the insanely amazing "State Fair Hot Dogs."
OVERALL GRADE: A+
Make no mistake - this was a BIG TIME win. Nebraska now has everything to gain and nothing to lose on Sunday - they can play free. Because even if they lose, two wins in the Big 10 Tournament still lands them in the dance. They essentially now have TWO MORE CHANCES to get ONE MORE Top 50 win, which should get them in.
Is this happening?
PLAYER OF THE GAME: WALTER PITCHFORD
2013-2014 PLAYER OF THE GAME RESULTS:
TERRAN PETTEWAY - 13
SHAVON SHIELDS - 7
WALTER PITCHFORD - 4
TAI WEBSTER - 2
LESLEE SMITH - 2
DEVERELL BIGGS - 1