BLOOMINGTON – Will Sheehey waved both arms to loud cheers in introductions, then later nailed the tying 3-pointer that sent fans into another full-throated roar.
The Senior Night script went awry, however, and Nebraska took advantage of Noah Vonleh’s absence to hand the Hoosiers a 70-60 loss Wednesday that seemingly cripples their NCAA tournament hopes.
Sheehey, who scored 13 points in 38 minutes, still seemed to appreciate the traditional farewell ceremonies, which were marked by a recognition that his four-year career coincided with the return of winning at Indiana.
When you look back at the way this program has turned, Will Sheehey belongs in the first sentence, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said to the crowd afterward. Will absolutely hates to lose. That was the kind of spirit, edge and person we wanted to bring to Indiana.
Sheehey opened his passionate speech – which lasted about 50 seconds – by agreeing that he hated to lose and hated it just as much in his final game at Assembly Hall.
Indiana (17-13, 7-10 Big Ten) never led and fell back into its familiar inconsistency ahead of Saturday’s regular-season finale at Michigan.
We didn’t play with the swagger and edge we usually do, Sheehey said when he met with media. This wasn’t our last game. We have to make sure we go down swinging.
The Hoosiers settled for 21 3-pointers against Nebraska’s mix of man and zone defense. Troy Williams, who had made three 3s entering Wednesday, was 2 of 2 from behind the arc, while Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell combined to go 3 of 17 from long range.
When we moved the ball well, we were hard to guard, Crean said. We just didn’t do it enough.
Williams had 18 points and six rebounds. Ferrell added 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The Hoosiers trailed by 11 early, 34-26 at halftime and 46-35 with 16:12 to play. Things seemed to swing their way when Sheehey capped a 17-6 run over six minutes for the night’s only tie.
His tongue was never tied, as he authored what must be among Indiana’s shortest senior speeches, with a moving finish.
I’m the luckiest guy, Sheehey said. I have the best teammates and coaches in the world, and I play at the best university.
Also honored were Taylor Wayer, Jeff Howard and Evan Gordon. Howard started at center for Vonleh, who sat a second straight game with left foot inflammation.
Crean recognized Howard as a leader who will be successful for the rest of his life, Wayer as a model for how to overcome things and Gordon as an outstanding person.
Indiana, which shot 37 percent from the field, became the eighth straight Cornhuskers opponent to finish under 40 percent.
That’s been our calling card, coach Tim Miles said. We decided to win with defense.
It zapped Indiana twice this season, and Nebraska (18-11, 10-7) was able to put a damper on the ceremonies.