It is never an easy proposition to win games on the road in the B1G. It is even more difficult when a team who comes into a game shooting 34% from behind the arc shoots 61% (14-23). When you combine that with 14 turnovers of your own that leads to 18 points for the opponent, it’s a recipe for a loss. That is exactly what happened for the Purdue Boilermakers, losing to the Nebraska Cornhuskers on the road 72-88.
The Boilers seemed to be a bit out of sorts from the first possession as Braden Smith and Lance Jones seemed to not be on the same page as Smith threw the ball out of bounds with Jones cutting through the lane. From there, it was mostly all Nebraska in that open twenty minutes. The home team consistently were able to take the bad turnovers that Purdue had and turn them into points all evening while hitting tough shots of their own.
Rieck Mast had a stellar game for the Cornhuskers as he started out scoring 7 of Nebraska’s first 8 points while the Nebraska led 8-2 in the first six minutes of the game. It wasn’t until 11 minutes in the first half that Purdue finally was able to grab their first lead and then extend it to 6 points with 5:33 left. It would be the last time Purdue would hold a lead. It was also at that point the wheels started to churn for the Cornhuskers as they outscored the Boilers 22-5 after Loyer made the last field goal of the first half for Purdue. The Boilers went into the half down 30-41.
To start the second half, the Boilers were able to pull within 1 point just six and a half minutes into the second half following a more concerted effort on defense to challenge three point shooters and moving the ball better on the offensive end to find baskets at the rim and better shots behind the arc. It was at that point that Lance Jones took an ill advised three point shot and Purdue’s chances continued to slide further and further away. Nebraska was able to go on a 14-2 run in under two minutes of game time to push their lead to thirteen. Purdue was never able to close than second the rest of the game.
The story of the game is truly how well Nebraska played facing the number 1 team in the country, who were likely set to become a unanimous number one had they won with Houston’s first loss of the season. Nebraska hit a lot of very tough shots but when you allow a team to play with confidence while turning the ball over, this is the type of game you can find yourself in when playing on the road in the B1G. This now puts Purdue at 13-10 over the last three seasons when playing true road games, showing just how difficult it is to win on the road against quality teams.
Make no mistake, this Nebraska team is an NCAA Tourney team and one that could very well find itself on the six or seven seed line come selection Sunday if they continue to play at the level they have been able to for most of the season. Northwestern is also likely a tourney team so it is not like the losses that have occurred are bad ones to teams with no chance at the post season.
Zach Edey was frustrated for a second straight game even though he went for 15 points and 7 rebounds but also had three personal fouls and three turnovers. He went 6-10 from the field but due to being double and triple teamed throughout the entire game, he was unable to get as many opportunities. In a game such as this, Purdue needs to do a better job of finding the best player in the country more chances to score instead of being led by Lance Jones and Mason Gillis in shot attempts (both had 12).
The Boilers featured five players in double figures but just couldn’t get the stops they needed to extend their runs nor could they stay away from long scoring droughts and bad turnovers. This was also the first game this year that Purdue allowed a team to score 40 or more points in both halves of a game, again, a testament to Nebraska’s offensive output.