BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The door to the visiting locker room at Assembly Hall is midnight black and 2.5 inches thick, but it couldn’t completely contain the screams around 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
There was the collective yell, then the singular, piercing “woo” from coach Tim Miles.
“Yes sir!” assistant coach Armon Gates screamed as the door swung open.
The entire team spilled out into the hallway, including Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm, to celebrate a 66-51 victory over No. 25 Indiana. A few players talked with the media. Some mingled with family back out on the court. Assistant Jim Molinari walked out last with a grin, his tie slightly disheveled.
“Finally,” he said with an exhale, to no one in particular.
After three straight conference road losses, Nebraska was the enforcer on Monday night at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers scored a season-low 51 points. Besides Indiana’s two All-America candidates — Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan — no IU player scored more than five points. Nebraska took a double-digit lead in the first 10 minutes, and then never trailed.
Never left a doubt.
“It was a total team night,” Miles said. “Just every guy was good, and that’s nice. That’s how you win on the road.”
Four Huskers scored in double digits, including Glynn Watson, who hit three important 3-pointers en route to 15 points and five rebounds. Isaac Copeland scored 14 with eight rebounds, Thomas Allen scored 10 with two assists, and James Palmer scored 11 points, snagged nine rebounds and dished out seven assists.
Nebraska held Indiana, one of the best shooting teams in the country, to just 36.5 percent from the floor. Freshman phenom Langford scored 18 points, and Morgan scored 17.
“One of the most disappointing games we’ve played as a team this season,” second-year Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “We didn’t have any energy, any pop either end of the floor.”
With Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos behind the bench, Nebraska exploded to a 25-7 lead in the first 11 minutes. Indiana took advantage of an eight-minute Nebraska scoring drought to end the half and cut the lead to three early in the second.
But back-to-back 3-pointers from Watson gave Nebraska some breathing room. Then Allen nailed a 3 on a designed double screen to make it 48-36, which sent out groans from the more than 17,000 fans in attendance.
“That was a backbreaker,” Miller said.
Senior Tanner Borchardt drew a charge on Morgan soon after, and all energy left the arena, as did hundreds of fans who booed and cursed as they walked out the door.
Borchardt epitomized Nebraska’s grit. The senior missed shootaround Monday morning after waking up with pain in a tooth. He was sent to a dentist and was numbed. The medication wore off during the game, so he played through the pain and scored seven points and hauled in five rebounds. Borchardt was briefly sent to the bench after he was clocked by Morgan, which caused a bloody nose.
But Borchardt returned and drew that charge in the second half.
“Big minutes from Big T tonight,” Copeland said.
Road wins are hard to come by in the Big Ten, but following three close losses on the road at Minnesota, Maryland and Iowa, there was a sense of relief postgame, Miles said.
And you could see it all over the arena 20 minutes after the buzzer sounded in the way Palmer leaned back in the stands talking with family. Or how big the smile was on former Hoosier and current Nebraska assistant Michael Lewis as he posed for pictures at midcourt, or the way Miles galloped out of the postgame interview to get to the bus.
That can only last for so long with No. 6 Michigan State looming on Thursday night in Lincoln, Miles said.
But for a night in Bloomington, for the third time in Miles’ tenure, Nebraska walked out of the arena with a sense of hope for the rest of the season. And that was worth enjoying, even for a few minutes before Michigan State prep.
“I don’t know if there’s a crisis of confidence for our guys,” Miles said, “but this is sure a confidence builder.”