Indiana hung on to the country's No. 1 ranking despite splitting a pair of grueling matchups last week.
Its next two games don't figure to present nearly as tough a challenge.
Looking to take advantage of a softer stretch of their schedule, the Hoosiers try to avenge last season's loss to Nebraska as these schools square off in Bloomington for the first time in almost four decades Wednesday night.
While Thursday's last-second 74-72 loss at Illinois raised some questions regarding Indiana's elite status, coach Tom Crean's team appeared to squash any qualms Sunday. Victor Oladipo had a career-best 26 points, Cody Zeller scored a season high-tying 24 and Christian Watford added 20 as the Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) pulled out an 81-68 victory at then-No. 10 Ohio State.
"There was a different level, a sense of urgency because of the way we didn't finish it off (Thursday), combined with the fact that we knew we were playing a team that it is outstanding," Crean said.
"We are focused so much on team. While others might have the best frontcourt or defensive backcourt in the country, we're trying to have the best team. You have to have great players to have the best team."
Despite coming up short against the Fighting Illini, Indiana retained the top spot in Monday's AP poll after then-No. 2 Florida and then-No. 3 Michigan both also lost.
"I had a good friend tell me that in-season rankings are the barometer of representing what lane you're in and the direction and how far you are moving towards your goals," Crean said. "We want to stay in the left lane and keep working on our team and pace because we know there are quite a few others in the left lane as well."
While matchups versus No. 8 Michigan State, No. 13 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan still await the Hoosiers, their next two games shouldn't be too difficult. After facing Nebraska (12-12, 3-8), Indiana hosts a Purdue team it blew out by 37 in West Lafayette two weeks ago.
The Hoosiers dropped to 8-2 all-time against the Cornhuskers with a 70-69 defeat in Lincoln on Jan. 18, 2012. That win over then-No. 11 Indiana is Nebraska's only victory in 12 games against ranked opponents since the start of last season.
The Huskers, who've lost 16 straight and 37 of 38 road matchups against Top-25 foes dating to 1999, haven't visited Bloomington since a 97-60 loss Dec. 21, 1974.
After falling 84-65 at then-No. 23 Minnesota on Jan. 29 and 63-56 to Ohio State four days later, Nebraska completed a two-game season sweep of last-place Penn State with Saturday's 67-53 win. Guard Dylan Talley led the way with 16 points and fellow senior Brandon Ubel added 14 and nine rebounds.
The Huskers shot just 32.6 percent but limited the Nittany Lions, who are winless in league play, to 29.2 percent.
"They're all satisfying," coach Tim Miles said of the victory. "We have to go out and find a way to win and we did. That was important."
Averaging a conference-low 59.0 points, Nebraska could have a tough time keeping up with the Hoosiers, whose 83.2 points per game rank second in the nation.
Indiana has outscored opponents by an average of 22.9 points during a 21-1 run at Assembly Hall.
The Associated Press News Service
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