A reporter from Indiana asked Glynn Watson Jr. the thoughts racing through his mind when Indiana, which had trailed by 18 points, had briefly cut Nebraska’s lead to three early into the second half.
Watson, the Nebraska senior point guard, offered a somewhat confused look, and then answered as honestly and innocently as possible.
“They cut it to 3?”
Yes, 35-32, actually.
Even when teammate Isaac Copeland Jr. confirmed the stat and replayed the situation, Watson seemed doubtful.
He also seemed unfazed.
“I mean, I don’t really know,” Watson said. “I was just playing my game.”
And that, more than anything, explains how Nebraska kept a sleepy Assembly Hall crowd from ever getting loud, and why the Huskers headed for the airport with a decisive and much-needed road victory in hand.
They just simply played their game.
Watson scored a team-high 15 points, including a couple of 3-pointers following the aforementioned close score, and Nebraska defeated No. 25 Indiana 66-51 on Monday night to hand the Hoosiers their first home loss of the season.
Nebraska (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten Conference) beat a ranked team on the road for the first time since leaving here two seasons ago with a victory over No. 16 Indiana. The 15-point margin of victory in a road game against a ranked team was the Huskers’ largest since defeating No. 23 Kansas State 80-59 in 1993.
This was supposed to be a get-well game for Indiana, home against an unranked team after the Hoosiers had dropped two straight on the road.
Yet with 3 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the game, Hoosier fans began heading for the exits feeling anything but good.
That Nebraska had the game that well in command at that point – ahead by 13 points – proved how dialed in and focused the Huskers were.
For they needed this game every bit as much as Indiana did.
Such urgency showed early, when the Huskers bolted to a 9-0 lead, expanded the lead to 18 and weathered the expected Indiana run. Nebraska won its second true road game of the season, its first in Big Ten play and its first against a ranked team.
It’s one of those resume-building games Nebraska lacked last season when it felt shortchanged in not making the NCAA Tournament.
No, the Huskers still haven’t forgotten.
“We have a little chip on our shoulder,” Watson said. “This game, we came back with a little swag. Just came here, played hard, shots started falling early.”
And, for Watson, later.
‘’I just knocked them down, got in a rhythm,” Watson said. “I was aggressive.”
So were many Huskers, including Copeland, who hit a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of more than 8 minutes late in the first half, and senior James Palmer Jr., who ended the first half with an emphatic driving dunk at the buzzer. That gave the Huskers a 31-22 halftime lead.
Watson may not remember the time Indiana cut the lead to three because that margin lived a very short life. Senior center Tanner Borchardt scored 16 seconds later, and Watson followed with two of his three 3-pointers, as Nebraska pushed its lead to 43-32. Indiana never got closer than nine thereafter, and the Huskers maintained a double-digit lead the final 13 minutes.
"The way you win big road games, you play from the front, and just hang on," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "We were able to stretch a little bit today. I thought our guys did a very good job with the game plan from the get-go."
Nebraska never trailed, and the few times the home crowd showed signs of life in the second half, some Husker answered to silence it. Sophomore guard Thomas Allen did so by sinking a 3-pointer where he’ll never be more open in a Big Ten road game. That pushed the lead to 57-42 with 8:30 remaining.
“It kind of got quiet after that,” Copeland said with a little grin.
Indiana scored a season low point total. It marked the seventh time this season Nebraska has held an opponent to its season low. The Huskers also held the Hoosiers to a season-low 36.1 percent shooting – even lower than Indiana shot against Duke.
“We just stuck to our game plan – helped the helpers, things like that,” Watson said. “It was five guys out there together.”
Like when Borchardt, with Nebraska leading by 14, drew a charging foul in the second half on Juwan Morgan. Morgan and freshman star Romeo Langford combined to score 35 points, but no other Indiana player scored more than five, as the Hoosiers lacked any other perimeter threats.
Borchardt, meanwhile, had seven points, five rebounds and a steal in 17 minutes – all after he woke up Monday with a sore tooth that means he needs a root canal on Tuesday.
“We numbed him up,” Miles joked.
Said Copeland, who scored 14 points: “Big minutes from Big T. He played hard and tough for us, and we appreciate it.”