BLOOMINGTON, Ind. --- The quest for a Big Ten regular season title is now more closely within Indiana's grasp.
Entering the game tied for second with Maryland, the Hoosiers moved into a tie for first place with an 80-64 win over Nebraska Wednesday night at Assembly Hall.
"They understood what the game was giving to them, and they went to it and took advantage of it," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "Really, really proud of the way that they played."
Off the court, Indiana (21-6, 11-3 Big Ten) got a boost in the standings from Penn State's upset win over Big Ten leader No. 4 Iowa just moments before tipoff.
On the court, it got plenty of energy from junior forward Troy Williams, who finished with a game-high 18 points after going scoreless against Michigan State. IU freshman forward Juwan Morgan added a career-high 12 points in 11 minutes off the bench, his first-career double-digit scoring game.
"After Michigan State, I didn't come out aggressive and me and Coach Crean had talked aand we decided it's time to put on an aggressive mindset," Williams said. "Playing like that, I see the results it gets me."
Morgan also approached Wednesday's game with an attacking mindset, and was rewarded at the free throw line. He converted 5 of 6 at the line, and his six attempts were second-most on the team next to senior guard Yogi Ferrell's seven. He attributed his success to Williams' play.
"I remember the most recent (basket), Troy drove to the lane hard, like we said, with that attacking mindset, and all I did was move out of the way and he found me," Morgan said. "Just them making plays like that just opened up everything for me, and I just can't thank them enough for that."
While on the receiving end of a big run by Michigan State in East Lansing last weekend, Indiana - like Williams - would be the aggressor against Nebraska (14-13, 6-8). Trailing 32-29 with just over three minutes left in the first half, Indiana would enter halftime on a 13-2 run. That run carried over into the second half and ballooned to a 25-4 run by the 15:39 mark in the second half.
"For us to play the way we did in the second half says a lot about the way our guys (responded)," Crean said. "They were in a full fight, and they knew we had to make adjustments."
The catalyst of major second-half run was an unlikely source in Williams, who bounced back from a tough outing in East Lansing with nine first half points and the first six of the second half for Indiana.
Despite Williams' best efforts, the Cornhuskers would not go away. A quick 9-0 run cut the Indiana lead down to 10 with 11:47 left.
Once up by as many as 19, Indiana's lead was as few as eight points in the second half. However, a quick 7-0 run in response pushed Indiana's lead to 15 with 7:18 left and diffused any hopes of a Nebraska comeback.
The Cornhuskers were playing without second-leading scorer Shavon Shields, who did not travel with the team to Bloomington and missed his third-straight game. Though freshman guard Andrew White has carried the scoring load in Shields' absence, he was held to just 15 points after going for a career-high 35 against Penn State last Saturday.
Indiana's next test as it competes for the Big Ten regular season title comes this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. vs. No. 17 Purdue. The Boilermakers will no doubt offer a challenging matchup as the Hoosiers look to maintain their hold on their first-place tie in the conference.
"Well, that's a good thing," IU sophomore guard Robert Johnson deadpanned. "We are just going to try to take it one game at a time, one play at a time, and the results come as they may."