When No. 23 Nebraska visited Assembly Hall on Thursday night, the Hoosiers found themselves in a hole to an aggressive and fast Cornhusker squad almost immediately.
IU coach Curt Miller led the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten win of the season Sunday, but Nebraska was a bit too much and defeated IU 67-38 on Thursday night at Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers missed their first 10 shots from the floor, including four misses from senior forward Aulani Sinclair, who entered the game averaging 20.2 points per game. Sinclair hit a three 8:25 into the contest, which started a 7-2 IU run to draw within three.
“We only had four people score tonight, and with no starting post players scoring, it puts so much pressure on Aulani," Miller said.
Sinclair entered the game needing 23 points to reach 1,000 for her career. Based on her recent performances, it appeared possible that she could make it Thursday, as she had scored at least 27 points in four of her past five games.
Thursday night, however, she finished with 15, five short of her season average and eight short of 1,000. Those points will have to come in IU’s next game at Ohio State next Thursday to become the 23rd IU women’s player to reach 1,000 points.
From then on, however, it was all Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers ended up defeating IU 67-38. Freshman standout Rachel Theriot led all scorers with __ points, and the Cornhuskers had two players — Emily Cady and Jordan Hooper — posted double-doubles.
IU again made the game close at 19-15, but Nebraska went on an 18-2 run to end the half, taking a 20-point lead into halftime. Miller said the dominant Nebraska performance is one he hopes his team will be able to replicate soon.
“If you want to know what I believe our team will look like in three to four years, you just saw it," Miller said. "Very, very good point play. Post-players that have versatility to play inside and out and a team that gets after you every single possession. That’s what we want our team to look like in three to four years. That’s what we believe our team will look like."
Despite the large deficit — which reached 38 at one point — throughout the rest of the game, there were signs of life for IU (10-6, 1-2). Senior guard Jasmine McGhee returned from an ankle injury to play 30 minutes. She fought for rebounds and was able to grab four of them over Nebraska (12-4, 2-1) players.
Miller said McGhee was still in pain and was doubtful an hour before gametime. Once tipoff approached, however, McGhee made sure she would play, telling the training staff that she wanted to start.
“That shows some toughness and guts that she wants to be out there fighting for this team and fighting for her teammates,” Miller said.
The Hoosiers also found ways to constantly fight back during Thursday’s game in front of a loud student section. After turning the ball over seven times in the first 16 minutes of the game, IU only committed three for the rest of the game, which was tied for the fewest Nebraska has forced this season.
The pressure wore on the Hoosiers, but junior center Simone Deloach, who came off the bench to score 14 points, said they fought through it.
“This is a new era, and we’re fighting to the end," Deloach said. "We have a mission and we have a goal. We’re looking to the future. This game was tough, but we have to look forward.”
Deloach’s strong performance off the bench was her second in a row, as she grabbed 15 rebounds in IU’s win over Northwestern on Sunday.
After IU’s starting forwards Milika Taufa and Linda Rubene were held scoreless and Deloach had another high-scoring night, Miller said increased minutes or perhaps a starting spot could be in her future.
“She was the only post who could make something happen with her back to the basket," Miller said. "She’s put together two really good games. You have to recognize that. You have to discuss maybe Simone’s the starting center for the rest of the year. She’s really earned that.”