The season rolls on for Nebraska as the Huskers will look to end their losing streak at home against Minnesota on Wednesday.
The Huskers seemingly made some strides against Purdue, hanging with the steaming-hot Boilermakers for a half before Purdue pulled away for an 81-62 win in West Lafayette. The Huskers shot over 40 percent from 3 and held Purdue’s star guard Carsen Edwards to nine points on 10 shots in the first half, but the Huskers couldn’t sustain the effort for a full 40 minutes.
“We’re going to keep striving and keep working hard,” senior guard James Palmer Jr. said. “I did like our energy versus Purdue. Different guys stepped up in different moments. That definitely was a positive.”
Coach Tim Miles said there were certainly some bright spots in the game, but nothing short of a win will give the Huskers back the confidence they’ve lost during their seven straight losses.
The biggest of bright spots from the Purdue game was the performance of sophomore guard Thomas Allen who tied his career high with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting including 5-of-6 from deep. Miles had brought Allen off the bench and started sophomore Thorir Thorbjarnarson in his place for the last two games.
“I liked the spark that Tom provided us at Purdue,” Miles said. “I thought he really played well and that’s what we’re looking for out of him. I’ll probably go back to Tom in that [starting] lineup. Just one of those things — he did what we asked him to do and Thor will still be a great spark coming off the bench.”
Miles said he thought Allen handled the lineup change about as well as one could.
“Any competitor wants to start,” Miles said. “But Tom handled it great. He’s a classy kid from a great family so it didn’t surprise me that he handled it well.”
Miles said he didn’t necessarily see anything different in the way Allen played; the sophomore simply knocked down some shots that hadn’t fallen in recent games.
“I think he hit shots,” Miles said. “We all could use a little bit of that too. It was good to see Glynn [Watson Jr.] have one go down later in the game and he’s practiced a lot better now. I think that is important. Young people, sometimes you can do it for so long, you go out there and play but you miss shots, miss shots, it does emotionally affect you. It shouldn’t, you’d like it not to, but let’s face it: it does sometimes. I think that helped Tom a great deal.”
This will be Nebraska’s second time seeing the Golden Gophers as the Huskers dropped a game at Minneapolis 85-78 on Dec. 5. Miles said they’ve looked at a few technical things from that game, but with Isaac Copeland’s absence the Huskers are a completely different team than they were the first time the teams squared off.
“Obviously we’re two different teams,” Palmer said. “We were up ahead at their place and we kind of gave it away a little bit at the end. They’re definitely a good team and we’ve just been preparing for those guys for tomorrow.”
Minnesota junior wing Amir Coffey exploded for 32 points while senior forward Jordan Murphy notched a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The duo combined for 27 free-throw attempts.
“Amir Coffey was the MVP of the league the night we played them,” Miles said. “Since then, I think they’ve been a very steady team. I think they’ve played well and not necessarily came away with wins at Purdue and at Michigan. They’re a very capable road team and they’re a tough matchup for us. Why? Because they draw fouls and we don’t have great depth. We’re minus Nana Akenten; he’s been out sick the last two days so that even spills our depth a little more. But also, their physicality as well is really good. I thought they hurt us at the rim last time, especially with Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey.”
Miles said they’ve played Allen when he’s missed practice before, but Akenten would be hard-pressed to be ready to go against Minnesota on Wednesday. If he’s out, freshman guard Amir Harris would likely get his minutes and freshman big man Brady Heiman could potentially see a few minutes as well. Heiman had nine points on 4-of-4 shooting and five rebounds the last time the Huskers played Minnesota.
Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Wednesday is set for 8:07 p.m. on BTN. Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris will be on the call.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.