Nebraska meets Indiana, seeks its first Big Ten tournament semifinal berth


Since entering the Big Ten prior to the 2011-12 season, Nebraska hasn’t exactly draped itself in conference tournament glory.

The Cornhuskers have won just five of their 17 games in Big Ten postseason play. They haven’t posted a victory in this 14-team festival since 2019. They’ve never made it past the quarterfinals.

But because the Huskers (22-9) received a double bye — their reward for earning the No. 3 seed — they took the express route to this year’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinals in Minneapolis.

They will meet sixth-seeded Indiana (19-13) in the final game on Friday’s tournament schedule. The Hoosiers needed an unlikely tip-in from backup guard Anthony Leal with five seconds left to beat 11th-seeded Penn State 61-59 Thursday night for their fifth straight victory.

“We beat a good team tonight. They’ve had our number,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “Nebraska’s had our number this season as well, so we’ve got to go back now and watch a little film and get ready for Nebraska.”

They probably discovered they needed to watch a lot of film. During the regular season, Nebraska knocked off Indiana twice by nearly identical scores — 86-70 on Jan. 3 in Lincoln, Neb., and 85-70 on Feb. 21 in Bloomington, Ind.

Huskers guard Keisei Tominaga starred in both games. The second-team All-Big Ten selection stacked up 48 points combined and sank four 3-pointers in each contest. In the Feb. 21 loss, Indiana big men Mackenzie Mgbako, Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau combined for 54 points — a strategy the Hoosiers figure to follow again Friday night.

While the Hoosiers need to capture the Big Ten tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament, the Huskers probably don’t need to advance to their first Big Ten semifinal to clinch the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2014. The Huskers entered Thursday’s games as the nation’s No. 38 team according to the NET rankings and No. 30 per KenPom.

“We’re in a good place,” said Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg, who shared the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year award with Purdue’s Matt Painter. “I feel really good about things at this time. We just can’t get complacent. We’ve got to stay hungry.

“This time of the year is about a lot of mental preparation. We’re adding actions to try to maybe steal a much-needed basket. We’re working on special situations. But this is the fun time with what we have right now — all the blood, sweat and tears you go through to get to this time of year and be playing in meaningful games in March.”

–Field Level Media

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