Depending on how things go today Purdue could be playing for first place in the conference tomorrow. We need Rutgers to beat Wisconsin and Minnesota to beat Maryland for that to happen, but mostly Purdue is looking to close the first half of the Big Ten season at 7-2 and hold on to its top 20 ranking. I know it is hard to get excited about the only team in the conference with a losing overall record, but we play the Cornhuskers just once.
We have to take care of business.
From: Lincoln, NE
Date : Sunday, January 29, 2017
Tip Time: 4:30pm ET
Location: Lincoln, NE
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,500)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2015-16 Record: 16-18, 6-12 Big Ten
2016-17 Record: 9-11, 3-5
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 13-4
Last Nebraska Win: 76-57 at Nebraska on 2/23/2014
Last Purdue Win: 81-62 at Nebraska on 3/1/2016
NCAA Tournament History: 7 appearances, 0-7 all-time
Since having a great season in 2014, when the Cornhuskers roared out of nowhere to make the NCAA Tournament with a fourth place Big Ten finish things have not gone well in Lincoln. They have had a few moments, but so far the Cornhuskers are on their way to a third straight losing season. They enter at 9-11 overall, but one of their victories is over a non-Division I team.
They did play a solid non-conference scheduler though. They lost to UCLA in Fullerton, CA, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Creighton, and Kansas. The only truly bad loss was a 70-62 loss at home to Gardner-Webb.
That pushed Nebraska into the Big Ten with a meager 6-6 record and extremely low expectations, but they had the best start of anyone. After three games they were atop the league at 3-0 with road wins at Maryland and Indiana. No one had them winning at Indiana or Maryland, let alone both. After surviving a double overtime 93-90 win at home over Iowa Nebraska has reverted to being Nebraska. They enter tomorrow’s game having lost five straight. That includes a pair of losses to Northwestern, a six point loss at Michigan, and 1-point losses to Ohio State and Rutgers.
The Rutgers and Ohio State loses came from defensive breakdowns in the final seconds, and they likely killed off any postseason hopes. To even make the NIT the Cornhuskers are going to have to go 7-3 in the final 10 games, and that seems unlikely with games against Purdue, Wisconsin, and two against Michigan State.
Last year Purdue and Nebraska played twice, and the Cornhuskers are probably very glad A.J. Hammons graduated. In the game in Mackey Arena Hammons had 32 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks in a 15 point win. In Lincoln he had a more quiet 16 and 6 with three blocks, but Purdue won by 19. In both games Purdue front line was a major problem.
When Nebraska has done well this year it is because of Tai Webster. Webster is having an all-Big Ten caliber season for a bad team, averaging 18.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He had 21 at Indiana and 18 at Maryland to lead them to victories. He is regularly over 20 points and shoots better than 45% from the floor. If Purdue can shut him down it should have very little trouble winning.
Glynn Watson Jr. (14.6 ppg) and Ed Morrow (10.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) provide balance, but they also limit the Cornhuskers to mostly being a three man show. There is also the small matter of Morrow, their top rebounder, being out with a foot injury. This is a team that shoots only 32.2% from three and 42.3% from the field overall. In this week’s Big Ten release they were 13th in the league in scoring at 71.5 points per game and 12th defensively. In many statistical categories the Cornhuskers rank only ahead of Rutgers, including in 3-point shooting. They are dead last in assists, but they do lead the league in steals.
Honestly, everything about this game screams mismatch. Jordy Tshimanga is the tallest player at 6’11”, but he is a reserve that only scores 3.7 points per game. Morrow, their leading rebounder by a lot, is only 6’7”. Jack McVeigh and Michael Jacobson present somewhat of a challenge at 6’9”, but as usual, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan have a massive advantage.
This is a trap game for Purdue. The Boilers just won at Michigan State and have a sneaky big game at home on Wednesday against Northwestern. The goal is to not blow this like we did at Iowa.