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Indiana Gets Boost Off Bench From Tamar Bates, Wins Big Ten Opener Over Nebraska

Indiana got off to a slow start on Saturday in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska, but freshman guard Tamar Bates ignited a rally that helped lead the Hoosiers to a 68-55 win.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Mike Woodson has a simple plan for dealing with home games at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall this season.

"I want to win them all,'' he said.

So far, so good. After opening the season with six home nonconference wins, Woodson's Hoosiers started their Big Ten schedule in style, too, beating Nebraska 68-55 Saturday afternoon. After a slow start, Indiana's defense clamped down and cruised to the finish, helping to erase a bit of the sting from Tuesday night's double-overtime loss at Syracuse.

Trayce Jackson-Davis led the Hoosiers with 14 points and seven rebounds, with 10 of those points coming in the second half. Freshman Tamar Bates had a season-high 13 points, with 11 of them coming in the first half to ignite the Hoosiers after all five starters struggled early. Race Thompson had another doubldouble, with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The lift off the bench was huge.

"It was a very important,'' Woodson said. "We came in slow and not really into the game. I mean, we were flat, and it's the first time I've seen that, and I tried to let them play their way out of it.

"You know, we missed some good shots. We had good looks early. But they built I think a 10-point lead at one time, and so I had to change it up, went to the bench and our bench was fantastic coming in.''

Nebraska jumped all over Indiana early. The Hoosiers looked lethargic out of the gate, which can sometimes happen with Noon games. Nebraska jumped out to a 14-4 lead and the Hoosiers were just 2-for-11 shooting with six turnovers in the first eight-plus minutes.

But then the Hoosiers got a huge boost off the bench from freshman Tamar Bates and sophomore Anthony Leal. Leal hit a three-pointer, had a steal and two beautiful assists, one to Bates for a layup. Bates hit three three-pointers and his 11 points put the Hoosiers back ahead quickly at 23-20.

"That's what it's all about to us, really,'' Bates said of the second-unit guys. "How we respond to adversity when we don't play as well as we expect to, that's important.  We talk before the game, and after the Syracuse game we talked about it, that we just have to have that laser-sharp focus coming into it making sure we just provide some kind of spark.''

They did. The defensive effort was there, too. Nebraska scored only six points in the first 10 minutes of the half, and Indiana led 26-22 at the half.

Leal, who had only played 24 minutes so far this season, got 12 on Saturday. He's earned it, Woodson said.

"Anthony's been very competitive in practice, and I came into the game knowing that I wanted to play him,'' Woodson said. "He's giving us good minutes, and the thing I'll say about Tamar, is he's not afraid of the moment. He'll take the big shot, even if it's not a good shot.''

Nebraska tried to play small and spread the floor on Indiana, but they went long stretches without scoring and made just 5-of-22 three-pointers. They were averaging 80 points a game coming in.

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Nebraska fell behind by 11 seven minutes into the second half, and the Hoosiers stretched the lead to 15 at 51-36 with 8 minutes to go. 

Nebraska made a run to cut the lead to seven, but Jackson-Davis two buckets and two free throws, Xavier Johnson made four and Race Thompson scored on a baby hook to push the lead back up to 15.

"Our bigs are athletic enough that we can switch if we get in trouble,'' Woodson said about defending the smaller Cornhuskers. "Race, he's been playing that way all season for us. They were playing small ball, so we tried to take advantage of that by posting him against a smaller guy, and he made a couple buckets. That's something that we will explore as we continue to journey if teams are going to play our fours with smaller people. I mean, you've got to exploit it.''

Jackson-Davis had scored 43 and 31 points in his last two games, so only scoring 14 seemed out of character. But his big second half helped keep Nebraska at bay.

"With Trayce, he missed three or four bunnies right at the rim, and that's going to happen,'' Woodson said. 

Parker Stewart finished with nine points, all on three-pointers in the second half. He is 18-for-34 (52.9 percent) from three in Indiana's last five games after a slow start to the season.

"We knew Parker can shoot the ball, and he's been making them. I'm happy with where he is as a player right now, because he's giving us good minutes.''

Thompson was thrilled to see Leal make a big contribution. This is a deep team at the guard position, and minutes are hard to come by. But he puts in the work, and he's prepared when his number is called.

"I don't think anything was holding him back. I think he was just searching for a spot,'' Thompson said of Leal. "We have a lot of good players at the guard spot. We have Parker, Tamar, Trey (Galloway) went down. I mean, all of our guards are really good. But you see Anthony every day in practice, he goes 125 percent every single day and he really deserves it.

I don't think any of us are surprised that he goes out there and gets a steal, makes a shot because that's what he does every single day in practice. So I'm really proud of him. Hopefully he can keep going out there and doing that.''

Indiana shot 40.4 percent from the field, 38.4 percent from three and 82.4 percent of their free throws. They made their first 11 frees throws and 13-of-14.

Nebraska shot 37.7 percent from the field, 22.7 from three and 80 percent from the line, though they only took five shots,.

Indiana has its second December Big Ten game on Wednesday at Wisconsin. The Badgers beat Marquette 89-76 on Saturday and are 7-1 on the season as well.  

Watch Tamar Bates, Race Thompson interview

  • LIVE BLOG: Relive the Hoosiers' win over Nebraska in real time, with all the news and views as it played out. CLICK HERE
  • FIXING TURNOVERS: One of the biggest issues that has been haunting Indiana so far this season is turnovers. They had 26 against Syracuse. Coach Mike Woodson knows the Hoosiers have to clean up that area. CLICK HERE
  • BIG TEN WINS CHALLENGE: Michigan State and Wisconsin won on Wednesday, helping the Big Ten to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the third straight year. Here are summaries of all 14 games. CLICK HERE
  • 1,000-POINT SCORERS: There have been 54 players at Indiana who have broken the 1,000-point barrier, with Trayce Jackson-Davis being the most recent member of the club. He's got 1,103 points now, and is up to No. 45 on the list. Here's the complete updated list. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA SCHEDULE: Here is the complete schedule for Indiana's 2021-22 men's basketball season, with links to game stories and Tom Brew columns from the games already played. CLICK HERE