BLOOMINGTON — As Indiana enters its matchup Saturday at Nebraska (7 p.m., Big Ten Network), the Hoosiers once again find themselves struggling to generate perimeter offense.
After a 2-for-18 night from 3-point range Wednesday against Rutgers, Indiana dropped to 13th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage (29.7 percent) ahead of just the Scarlet Knights. IU also ranks last in the conference in average 3-pointers made (5).
For Indiana (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten), the shooting woes are nearly identical to last season, when IU finished 12th in the conference at 31.4 percent from beyond the arc. IU coach Archie Miller made shooting a priority during the offseason, and players spent extra time over the summer hoisting up shots. But the results haven’t shown yet.
“As we keep shooting them every day and as we keep playing more games, I think eventually, I mean, they are going to have to start falling,” IU redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter said. “Because, I mean, we keep shooting them every day, and Archie really emphasizes in practice that you need to start making shots if you want to win big games.”
On his radio show earlier this month, Miller said the perception IU does not have good enough shooters on the roster is false and suggested the issues stem from not getting quality looks or 3-point shots in rhythm. Asked whether 3-point attempts were in rhythm against Rutgers, Miller responded: “Some were in rhythm. Some were H.O.R.S.E. shots. They are open. They are wide open. There are some, I think Rutgers had a great deal of pressure on us which sped the ball up and made our players speed up.”
Indiana beat Nebraska 96-90 in overtime at Assembly Hall on Dec. 13 despite shooting 20 percent (5-of-25) from 3-point range. The Hoosiers were able to win by pounding the ball inside, outscoring Nebraska 52-42 in the paint and 27-12 at the free-throw line. But those points inside will likely be harder to come by on the road, where IU is 0-3 this season.
“Our players have to, you know, take pride and continue to work on them, and we’ve got to continue as a staff to continue to get our guys good looks,” Miller said. “You know, we have to be able to find a way, especially on the road, to be able to stick a few because that’s the key.”
Nebraska (7-10, 2-4) is coming off an 80-68 loss at Ohio State, but the Cornhuskers have shown the ability to rise to the occasion at home, with wins over Purdue and Iowa at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The quickness of Nebraska’s guards caused an issue for IU’s first meeting between the two schools. Junior guard Dachon Burke scored 25 points for Nebraska in the overtime loss, while sophomore point guard Cam Mack had 15 points and 10 assists.
“Mack is one of the probably more unsung point guards in college basketball in terms of what he does for his team,” Miller said. “He is a blur off the bounce, and he’s a fantastic passer. When they are successful, he pretty much dominates the game with his production in terms of not only creating shots for others but also his own offense.”
GETTING TRAYCE ON TRACK
Miller was asked a number of questions about freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, whose productivity has dipped as he’s learning to deal with double teams. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 5 points and 4.5 rebounds over his last two games and has been held under double figures in scoring in two straight games for the first time since back-to-back games in early December against Wisconsin and Connecticut.
Miller met with Jackson-Davis on Thursday night. The lefty former McDonald’s All-American still leads the Hoosiers in both scoring (14 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg). Jackson-Davis had his best game in his first meeting with Nebraska, posting a double-double with a season-high 25 points and 15 rebounds.
“Players continue to evolve as the season goes,” Miller said. “Sometimes they have their ruts. Sometimes good players go through a couple games. But the best players always find a way to bring it on the biggest nights, and we need Trayce to bring it on the biggest night, and that biggest night will be Saturday for him. He’s got to be aggressive.”