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‘We were awful’: No way around it. Perimeter play for Indiana basketball fell flat in loss as it continues to lower ceiling for Hoosiers



Indiana basketball
The perimeter play for Indiana basketball was once again embarrassed and nowhere to be found in its 86-70 loss to Nebraska. (Andrew Mascharka/Indiana Athletics)

There’s no way around it. On Wednesday night, Indiana basketball was once again outplayed on the perimeter and turned in an ‘awful’ performance from its guards.

This isn’t something new — but Wednesday might have been a new low and Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson didn’t mince words following IU’s 86-70 loss to Nebraska.

“Our starting two guards were awful tonight,” Woodson said on the postgame radio show. “Xavier (Johnson), I know he’s been rusty and hasn’t played. 14 minutes, he didn’t give us much at all. (Trey) Galloway didn’t give us anything until late when it was too late.”

The results were staggering.

Indiana’s starting perimeter players: 16 points on 6-of-21 with 8 turnovers.

Nebraska’s starting perimeter players: 55 points on 18-of- 33 with 4 turnovers.

Xavier Johnson returned after a seven-game absence with a foot injury. But, it was clear he was rusty and just flat out struggling to provide any value on the floor for Indiana.

In his 15 minutes, he finished with 0 points on 0-of-3 from the floor with three assists, three fouls and four turnovers. As for Trey Galloway, he turned in 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, two assists and three turnovers.

Indiana’s two captains were flat out outplayed by Nebraska’s starting backcourt — add in Mackenzie Mgbako who had just six points on 2-of-8 from the field and it’s another night where Indiana received nothing from the perimeter players.

For Nebraska, it was led by Keisei Tominaga who had 28 points on 9-of-15 from the floor with four 3s. He scored 18 in the second half.

Brice Williams had 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Jamarques Lawrence added 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Off of the bench, CJ Wilcher had 11 points — all in the first half before dealing with a minor injury after halftime.

“When I look at the stat sheet and their perimeter play, they outplayed our starting two guards,” Woodson added to reporters. “[They] were awful tonight and their (Nebraska’s) two guards were really good. One, two and three.”

While the backcourt performance was non-existent, Kel’el Ware had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Malik Reneau had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. The two combined for 13-of-21 from the field. Only nine field goals were made by someone other than that duo.

Indiana’s backcourt combined for eight of the 19 turnovers — leading to 27 total points of turnovers for the Huskers. They had 15 steals and a 10-1 advantage in fast break points.

“I think a lot of times we were trying to create things that weren’t there,” Woodson said about the turnover issues. “They put two on the ball and that’s been pretty good for us. When teams put two on the ball we are able to pull it and get rid of the ball and that pass leads to something good. Tonight, we tried to fight the two on the ball and we were throwing it away.

“We had some unforced turnovers that were just unacceptable, but we gotta go back and fix that because you’re not going to beat anyone in the Big Ten doing that.”

If you add in the 11 points totaled by Gabe Cupps, CJ Gunn and Anthony Leal off of the bench, that brings the guard deficit to 45 points — getting outscored 66-21 just by the guards.

Basketball is won by guard play and Indiana basketball hasn’t had consistent guard play since Xavier Johnson’s late run two seasons ago.

“We gotta be better on the road and in managing the game,” Woodson told reporters moments later. “I just thought our perimeter play… I thought Gabe (Cupps) played well for us in the minutes that he played, but other than that, from a perimeter standpoint, we were awful.”

Here is a look at some notable games this season when Indiana’s starting backcourt was significantly outplayed.

vs UConn: 50-14.

vs Harvard: 37-7

vs Auburn: 38-17

vs Louisville: 27-16

Coming into this season it was critical that Indiana land a perimeter shot maker. It didn’t. In every key game this season, the inability to have a true shot maker on the floor has limited its ability on the offensive end.

Indiana has given up 20+ points to 12 different opposing guards this year. Indiana itself has had just one game with 20 points from one of its backcourt players.

Indiana basketball resumed Big Ten play without any significant win on its tournament resume. If it wants any chance at getting back to the NCAA Tournament, it will need to see a drastic difference in its guard play — and it needs to happen immediately.

SEE ALSO: Self inflicted wounds plague Indiana Basketball in 16-point loss to Nebraska

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.