Nebraska spoils Indiana’s hopes for at-large NCAA bid
By Andy Proffet Post-Tribune correspondent March 5, 2014 9:50PM
Indiana's Yogi Ferrell (11) is trapped by Nebraskas Terran Petteway, center, and Walter Pitchford in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Updated: April 7, 2014 1:32PM
BLOOMINGTON — Will Sheehey got right to the point.
“I hate to lose, and I hate tonight,” Sheehey said during Wednesday’s senior night activities at Indiana.
The reason? A 70-60 loss to Nebraska that spoiled the night for Sheehey and fellow seniors Jeff Howard, Taylor Wayer and Evan Gordon.
When Sheehey hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 10 minutes left, momentum finally seemed to be on the Hoosiers’ side.
Nebraska took care of that.
The Huskers (18-11, 10-7 Big Ten) clinched a winning conference record and bolstered its chances of an NCAA Tournament berth. The Hoosiers (17-13, 7-10) will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season.
IU never led Wednesday night, falling behind quickly thanks to an impressive start by Nebraska forward Walter Pitchford, who scored the Huskers’ first nine points.
The Hoosiers trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, but used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to tie the game. But Shavon Shields hit 1-of-2 free throws to put Nebraska back in front, and Pitchford’s 3-pointer with 1:55 to play gave the Huskers a 62-58 lead and all but iced the win.
“We couldn’t get our mojo,” Yogi Ferrell said of IU’s struggles down the stretch. “We just got quiet, shots weren’t falling.”
Said Sheehey: “I think offensively and defensively we didn’t play with the swagger we had (in beating ranked teams Iowa and Ohio State at home).”
Said IU coach Tom Crean: “I think when we made the run, we all felt like we were going to get over the hump.
“I think this comes down to being one of those games that comes down to a couple plays. ... We made that great comeback, but every possession then becomes magnified.”
Pitchford and Shields each scored 17 points to lead Nebraska, which also got 13 points from Terran Petteway, who was 6-of-6 on free throws in the final minute.
Freshman Troy Williams led IU with 18 points. Sheehey added 13 points and Ferrell scored 10 as IU lost its home finale for the second straight season.
Last year, the Hoosiers still were able to win the Big Ten regular-season title with a win at Michigan in the regular-season finale. This year’s regular-season finale, also at Ann Arbor, won’t have quite the same cachet.
“Now we’ve got to regroup and go play at Michigan,” Crean said.
“The self-inflicted mistakes are always going to bother you. ... We’ve got to get to a consistent place, consistent minutes.”
The Hoosiers were without freshman center Noah Vonleh for the second straight game because of foot inflammation. Crean said IU didn’t know Vonleh would be unavailable until the pregame walkthrough.