Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Huskers Fall Short in Overtime in Upset Bid Against No. 4 Purdue

December 10, 2022

As Fred Hoiberg said after Nebraska’s 65-62 overtime loss to Purdue, there are no moral victories.

Even so, the Huskers again showed the kind of defensive grit and never-say-die attitude that Hoiberg hoped would become the identity of this year’s team. Nebraska battled back from a 14-point second half deficit to send the game to overtime in front of a raucous Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd. 

The Huskers held National Player of the Year frontrunner and 7-foot-4 behemoth Zach Edey to 11 points, a dozen under his average. Purdue, the No. 1 team in adjusted offensive efficiency heading into the game, scored just 65 points in 45 minutes and shot 39.7% from the field.

In the end, however, the Huskers couldn’t get enough shots to go down to pull off the upset as Nebraska falls to 0-2 in Big Ten play and 6-5 overall.

“There are no moral victories, and that’s the thing about this group, there was a lot of dejection in that locker room,” Hoiberg said. “But at the same time, the way they went out and battled, if we do that every night, we’re going to have a chance, we’re going to have a hell of a year. That’s the thing I told them, walk out of here with your head high.”

Keisei Tominaga had another big game off the bench, leading Nebraska with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting including 4-of-8 from deep and 3-of-3 from the foul line. Derrick Walker recorded his third double double in six appearances with 14 points and 10 rebounds while batting with Edey all game. Emmanuel Bandoumel matched Walker with 14 points but shot just 3-of-10 from deep.

“We did what we could, we did our best of controlling what we could control by keeping Edey out of the game a little bit, attacking them and finding ways to score with Keisei going off a little bit and Derrick attacking,” Bandoumel said. “We followed the game plan, so that’s something we are really proud of. We battled, and we battled for all 45 minutes. It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while, being consistent with our effort, matching everybody’s energy and I thought we did a great job of that tonight.”

After missing Wednesday’s game at No. 14 Indiana with an illness, Sam Griesel was back in the lineup and played 38 minutes after heading into the day as a game-time decision. He struggled to get the ball to go down, scoring just five points on 2-of-14 shooting, but made numerous hustle and defensive players and finished with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block and a handful of other altered shots.

Nebraska shot 31.9% from the field field including 28.1% from 3. The Cornhuskers secured 19 offensive rebounds but only managed to convert them into nine second-chance points.

Freshman Fletcher Loyer stepped up for the Boilermakers with Nebraska concentrating the brunt of its defensive effort on slowing down Edey, scoring a game-high 22 points. However, the huskers made him work for it as it took him 21 shots and three free throws to get there. Edey was the only other Boilermaker in double figures, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 1-of-4 from the line with five turnovers and no assists.

“Our effort allowed us to stay in the game,” Hoiberg said. “Our guys kept swinging, kept fighting and kept battling and did it together. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Nebraska executed its defensive game plan well early on, swarming Edey on every touch and scrambling out of the doubles to fly around and contest shooters. The Huskers played the high-powered Boilermakers to a draw through the first 14-and-a-half minutes. 

“Zach Edey, I think eight games in a row he had 20 or more points, so it speaks to the effort of our guys, following the game plan and having discipline on that end,” Hoiberg said. “I thought our rotations for the most part were crisp.”

Despite the gritty effort on defense, Nebraska struggled to sustain offense, and Purdue hit the Huskers with a 13-2 run sparked by freshman Fletcher Loyer to build an 11-point point with two minutes to play in the half. 

Tominaga, who hit a pull-up to snap a streak of 10 straight Purdue points, buried a 3-pointer, but Edey scored inside and Nebraska came up empty on the final possession. Purdue led 34-24 at halftime.

The Boilermakers shot 50% overall in the first half but only 4-of-12 from deep. Nebraska matched that 3-point shooting but only shot 31.3% overall with 10 points in the paint. Bandoumel led Nebraska with eight points including two 3-pointers.

Bandoumel drew a foul on a 3-pointer on the first possession of the second half and hit all three free throws, but Purdue fired back with an 11-4 run to take its largest lead of the day at 45-31.

Nebraska spent the rest of the half chasing the Boilermakers, chipping away at the lead. Walker dropped in a lefty jump hook over Edey to pull Nebraska within two at 50-48 with just under seven minutes to play, nearly erasing the entire deficit.

“We aren’t going to get down on ourselves,” Walker said. “We’ve been through adversity all year and a 14-point lead is nothing in the game of basketball, it’s a few possessions and we know that. What we do in those situations is we focus on our defense. We know offense is going to make care of itself, so we just stick our heads down on defense and we do what we can until we see the scoreboard change.”

The Huskers had two chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t capitalize with a missed 3 and a missed front end in the bonus.

The teams went back and forth for the final six minutes. Trailing 54-53 with less than 90 seconds to play, Nebraska had five chances to tie or take the lead on one possession as the Boilermakers couldn’t secure a rebound and the Huskers went 0-for-5.

Brandon Newman hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left to put the Boilermakers back up by three. Griesel probed the defense, attacking the baseline in front of his own bench then kicked it back to Tominaga who followed behind for the quick-release 3, tying the game up with 9.1 to play.

“He stepped up and hit a great one for us and sent that thing into overtime,” Hoiberg said. “But Keisei’s not afraid of the moment, as you guys have seen.”

Loyer got an open look from the corner at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to fall, sending the game to overtime.

Nebraska held Purdue to 29.2% shooing and just seven field goals in the second half as the Boilermakers missed their last nine 3-pointers.

The Huskers continued to battle in the extra period as the two minutes nearly passed before the first point, a free throw from Edey. The lead changed hands four times as Walker and Loyer traded buckets over the next four possessions. 

Nebraska had three good looks from 3 but couldn’t get any of them to fall and had to send Smith to the line with 27.6 to play. The freshman hit both shots to put Purdue up by three. The Boilermakers chased Tominaga off the line and he got to the basket for the reverse layup to give the Huskers a chance.

Smith took the ball up the court against Nebraska’s pressure and appeared to lose it near mid-court, but an official called a foul on C.J. Wilcher and turned a Nebraska steal into a pair of fire throws for Smith with 12.1 to play. He hit both to put Purdue back up by three and a deep 3 from Griesel over Edey didn’t fall.

Nebraska went 3-for-10 from the field including 0-for-5 from 3 in the overtime.

“It’s very frustrating to not see the ball go down and win that game,” Walker said. “But I’m proud of our team for even putting ourselves in those positions to even be able to take the last shot. Getting offensive boards and getting our shooters shots, I think we did everything we needed to do towards the end of the game to put ourselves on top. Some things didn’t go our way but we fought, and we fought hard.”

Nebraska will get a week off to focus on rest, recuperation, practice and finals. The Huskers will return to the court on Dec. 17 at the T-Mobile Arena in Kansas City against Kansas State.

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