With the game a little too close for comfort in the second half, Junior Sasha Stefanovic was able to catch the ball, double-clutch, and think about all 9 of his previous missed threes since his return from COVID before rising up and finding range for the first time since he returned to the court.
The make sparked a three-point fury by Stefanovic who would make another three immediately after, and then two more, in a stretch of five minutes where he hit four threes and helped stretch Purdue’s lead to double-figures.
When the smoke cleared from his fingers and the game clock expired, Purdue came away from Lincoln, Nebraska with a convincing 75-58 victory.
The Cornhuskers kept this close for a good portion of the game, capitalizing on a sloppy first half finish by the Boilers with their bench. The Cornhuskers bench scored 37 points, but Purdue’s bench responded in the second half behind Sasha’s hot shooting to score 32 points of their own.
Purdue needed all 14 of Stefanovic’s points with Trevion Williams having an unusually quiet evening. Nebraska was intent on making the big man their focal point on defense and his 9 points and 3 rebounds is his quietest performance of the season. The Cornhuskers did a good job limiting his playmaking as well, the big man failed to record an assist in the game.
But Purdue’s best player might start to be a talking point.
The true freshman Jaden Ivey is starting to come into his own. He flashed both his highlight plays with his all-around excellence and brilliant. His one-handed throw down dunk on a drive going left was as vicious as his assist in transition to pull in the defense and find Stefanovic in corner was brilliant. The young man is showing a feel for the game beyond his years, and his athleticism is allowing him to get anywhere on the floor. He led the team in points with 15 and rebounds with 7, dished 4 assists, had three steals and two blocks.
The Big Ten has been officially been put on notice. Something special is brewing in West Lafayette.
Purdue’s defense and Nebraska’s inability to get a bucket to fall in the second half doomed a Cornhusker team that looked frisky for the first 25 minutes of the game. But they shot just 34% from the floor and made just 5 of their 14 free throw attempts.
Purdue was relentless on the glass, grabbing 11 more boards than the Cornhuskers and hit just enough threes late to pull away on a night they went 10-32 from the floor.
Brandon Newman was the third Boilermaker to score in double-digits with 10 points, including two three-pointers and a breakaway dunk off a steal.
Purdue will play Penn State next on February 26th at Penn State.