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My Two Cents: 3 Things I Want to See From Indiana Tonight at Nebraska

It's a strangely balmy mid-January day in Lincoln, Neb., where Indiana is set to take on Nebraska on Monday night. It's must-win time for the Hoosiers, who have lost all four road games this season, and are winless in Big Ten road games dating back to last February. Here are three things I want to see tonight.
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LINCOLN, Neb. — I don't ask for much, and come Monday night here in unusually balmy Lincoln, I'd just like three things from Indiana when they take on Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

It's simple really. I want to see some bench guys step up, I want to see a solid second half on the road for a change, and I'd love to see Trayce Jackson-Davis completely take over a game. 

Those things happen, and this long road losing streak will become a thing of the past. Heck, even if just two of three happen, it could result in a win.

Sure, Nebraska is winless in the Big Ten at 0-7, and Indiana has already beaten then by 13 at home, but the Cornhuskers took Ohio State to overtime here — and should have won in regulation. They also played Illinois tough at home, so there are no guarantees.

If it can be 50 degrees in mid-January in Lincoln, well, anything can happen.

Here are three things I want to see from the Hoosiers on Monday night: 

1. Immediate contributions from bench players

There are times when Indiana basketball fans have short memories. They often complain about Mike Woodson's substitution patterns, and they really whined last week when Iowa went on a 10-0 run against the bench guys.

But how quickly they forget what happened the first time Indiana played Nebraska this season, back on Dec. 4 in Bloomington. Nebraska got off to a quick 16-6 lead and Woodson didn't like the energy level he was seeing from the starters.

So he yanked all five of them and put the second unit in — and that 10-point lead was gone before you knew it. Indiana's bench scored 26 points in that game, with freshman Tamar Bates leading the way with 13. 

That kind of stuff needs to happen more often. Woodson was right to say that the second unit guys are just as important as the starters, and when they come in, they have to play well. 

Especially on the road. And, especially, on Monday night when it's critical to get a win against the Cornhuskers, who are still winless in the Big Ten.

“You got to be able to do all the little things to help your team win,” Indiana sophomore guard Galloway said Saturday while previewing the game.  "When you go on the road, it’s not going to be easy. We know that, but we've got to put ourselves in a position to be right there at the end of the game to be able to win games.”

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Bates had his best game against Nebraska in December, and the Hoosiers really need him to get going. He's had three points or less in six of the past seven games, and is 1-for-12 shooting in the last four games, with his only basket a dunk off a steal last Thursday at Iowa.

“He knows what he’s got to do, and we’re all here for him,'' Galloway said. "We’re going to pick him up. We all know we can play better, and he knows he can play better, too. He just has to keep pushing himself. He’s a hard worker and he stays in the gym, so I’m not worried about that. I know he’s going to do well. I know he’s going to be a big, big factor for our team the rest of the season.”

2. Play a solid second half on the road

That's been a major issue for the Hoosiers during Big Ten play. They've had big leads against Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa, and haven't been able to hold on to any of them.

That needs to change on Monday night.

They had a 22-point lead at one point against Wisconsin — and lost, getting outscored 39-17 in the second half. At Penn State, they allowed a 15-5 Penn State run in the middle of the second half to let them pull away and then hang on for a 61-58 win. And at Iowa on Thursday, Indiana had a seven-point lead at halftime, but then committed 14 turnovers in the second half and lost 83-74. 

After scoring 48 first-half points, all the Hoosiers could muster were 26 in the second half. You have ZERO chance of winning when you have more turnovers in a half (14). than made baskets (9). 

This is an experienced team with a ton of college games under their belts. There's no reason why they can't be better down the stretch when the games matter the most. They've done it at home, and now they need to take that on the road.

Monday would be a good time to start.

3. Let Trayce Jackson-Davis go wild

Nebraska is not very good defensively, ranking dead last in the league while allowing 79.2 points per game. And they absolutely have no answer for Indiana junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis inside, so I'd love to see him go off tonight.

He's a very good player having a very good year, but it's a game like this — one that's certainly reached must-win territory — where he just needs to take over and dominate. It can be done, especially against this Nebraska team.

It's incumbent on Jackson-Davis to have a big night, but it's also important that his teammates get him the ball and give him a ton of opportunities. A 30-10 night isn't out of the question. With home games looming later in the week against No. 4-ranked Purdue and Michigan, getting a win Monday night is critical. 

And a huge night from Jackson-Davis would set the tone.

  • HOW TO WATCH: It's a huge week for Indiana, and it starts on Monday with a road game at Nebraska. The Hoosiers, 12-4 overall, are still winless on the road  and they'd desperately like to end that misery. Here's how to watch, with gametime, TV, the latest on the point spread, lineups and lots of newsy nuggets. CLICK HERE
  • OPENING LINE: Even though Indiana is 0-4 on the road so far this season, the Hoosiers are big favorites in Monday's game at Nebraska. The line has been moving a lot, though. Here's the latest, plus both team's full record this year vs. the number. CLICK HERE