A hobbled Huskers squad, similar to last year at this time, take on a tourney-bubble bound Indiana in what will be the final conference tournament game with fans due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Fred and the Huskers are playing with house money, and without two of their most productive players, Cam Mack and Dachon Burke, who are both suspended indefinitely.
Nebraska will lean on a 7-man rotation, but if foul trouble or injuries neccesitate, we could see something special. Noah Vedral and Brant Banks, two backups on the football team, have joined the team for the trip to Indianapolis.
And if you want to see how amazing it is to see a 6-7, 300-lb offensive lineman and a backup QB playing basketball, take a look at this:
The game started off with a quick foul on Yvan Quedrago, but the Huskers came out swinging. After the Hoosiers took a 4-2 lead, back-to-back threes from Haanif Cheatham and Jervay Green gave the Huskers a quick, and surprising, 8-4 lead. Indiana battled back to tie it at nine, but Kevin Cross hit another three, followed by a savvy layup by Thorir Thorbjarnarson, to go up 14-13 five minutes into the game.
A minute after no scoring from either side, a bad pass from Thor lead to a quick defensive breakdown where Trayce Jackson-Davis was all alone at the hoop for an easy dunk. Indiana would cap their 10-2 run with a three-pointer from Jerome Hunter with just under 12 minutes left in the half.
That run continued on the other side of the break, where Jackson-Davis caught a lob off balance to finish. Jervay Green did not want to go away, as he hit his second three of the half, followed by a Kevin Cross tough drive a few plays later, Nebraska was sticking around, down only two, 23-21, with nine to go.
While Indiana pushed it back to a four-point lead, four straight made free throws (a big deal for this team) tied the game up 25 a piece with seven minutes to go. After the Hoosiers split a pair at the line, Thor thread the needle on a beautiful pass where Cheatham finished and gave the Huskers their first lead in nine minutes.
One minute later, a great read by Cheatham lead to him getting a steal and nifty layup to go up three. He, along with Green, has eight points. Next possession, Charlie Easley made his presence known on defense with a big swat. But the Hoosiers returned the favor a few times on the Huskers’ next possession. Unphased, Hoiberg’s squad recovered, which lead a a beautiful drive from Thor. He would get two more from the line after the Hoosiers split at the line, which extended the Huskers’ scoring run to 12-2.
The Hoosiers did not want to go down like this, however. Their tenth block of the half sparked a seemingly-lightning fast 16-1 run over the final four minutes to give them the lead back and by a lot, up 43-34 at the half.
Time to put in the backups...from the football team?
Unfortunately, that last-minute run by the Hoosiers continued into the second half. Indiana could not be stopped whatsoever, as the first four minutes of the half was a 15-4 Hoosiers run. Some quick math tells you the last eight minutes has been a 31-5 run for Indiana.
No quit would be found in Kevin Cross, as he went on his own personal 5-0 run to cut the lead to 17. The next five minutes was more of the same, but Nebraska kept it within 20, but never much of anything.
As the game progressed, Robin Washut’s tweet resided amid the NBA announcing they were suspending their season and NCAA tourneys were going fanless.
This could be one of the last basketball games played this season. #Nebrasketball— Robin Washut (@RobinWashut) March 12, 2020
If that really is true, let’s make this a game, huh, Huskers?
A 11-0 run cut powered by Cheatham and Cross cut the Indiana lead to just ten with just over eight minutes to go. Kevin Cross continued a career night a possession later, as he hit another three to cut the lead to just nine. He had a career-high 23 at this point. And all this with Fred Hoiberg looking sick as a dog on the sideline.
But Indiana proved the ability to withstand. They used some free throws to extend that lead right back to 15 with six to go. Green made a quick layup to answer, but Al Durham canned another long shot to push it back to 16 with five minutes left. That ballooned to an 8-0 to go up 85-64.
But then everything changed. Brant Banks and Noah Vedral moved to the scorers’ table. With two minutes to go, Banks used one of his five fouls to get on the stat sheet. Vedral almost got a rebound, but it lead to a foul for him as well. Vedral got the ball and did a nice pick-and-roll to Banks, who got fouled. He went 0/2 at the line. Fits right in with this team.
Eventually, Hoiberg left for the locker room because of an illness (great) and was replaced by Doc Sadler (ironic), all while Tim Miles was in the booth for analysis before, at half and after the game (even more ironic). And we even have football players playing.
Should be noted, all the fans, Indiana and Nebraska, were on their feet for the Vedral-Banks connection. They have one minute to do something. Vedral had a nice pump-and-drive to the basket, but couldn’t finish. And with the final shot, Banks missed a turnaround jumper.
This about sums it up:
Former coach taking over as head coach. Former coach in the studio talking about team. Football players in the game. What a game.— Sandy S. (@Just_Dandie) March 12, 2020
And so ends the Huskers, and potentially all of NCAA’s, basketball season. It was a year of suspensions, first triple-double ever, ending with a 17-game skid and two football players getting standing ovations on the basketball court. It was rough, but I think we have seen what Fred can do. This is the first step.