Nebraska made it a 40-minute fight against No. 15 Purdue on Saturday afternoon but the Huskers couldn’t finish the deal as the Boilermakers (20-7, 13-3 Big Ten) rode a dominant second-half rebounding performance to a 75-72 win at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“Tonight is disappointing in its own way, but obviously I’m proud of our guys,” Coach Tim Miles said. “I thought they were just a couple plays away from winning. I think that things you look at, like Purdue really [made] a couple hustle plays at the end of the clock out of Grady [Eifert]. He gets the cut on the inbounds play with one second on the shot clock. We’re zoned up to try and take away the lob or cut, and he ends up scoring. Then he catches the air ball and puts it in. Those are two big plays. Their sprint-and-slip thing, they got us at the end of the first half. Those are, what, seven points, if I do the math. We miss a couple bunnies inside that are point blank. It just doesn’t take much. Your margin of error is not great.”
The Huskers (15-13, 5-12 Big Ten) shot 14-of-29 on layups and dunks and cooled off from the perimeter after a hot start to finish 8-of-23 (34.8 percent) from deep. Nebraska tied its season-low with five turnovers and outscored Purdue 12 to six on points off giveaways. The Huskers got 10 points off the bench led by six from freshman Amir Harris, tying his career-high. Nebraska hit three more field goals, including two more 3s but Purdue outscored Nebraska 20-15 in second-chance points and shot 23-of-26 from the foul line.
Glynn Watson Jr. scored a season-high 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting (5-of-9 from 3), recording his first 20-point game in Big Ten play since he scored 21 against Penn State on Jan. 12, 2018.
James Palmer Jr. added 15 points but did most of his work at the free-throw line where he shot 10-of-10. He was 2-of-12 from the field, however, including 1-of-5 from 3. Palmer added eight assists with just one turnover. Nebraska got a combined 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting from Thomas Allen Jr. and Isaiah Roby.
Watson got off to a quick start, scoring 11 of Nebraska’s first 14 points. Thomas Allen Jr. scored at the rim to give the Huskers a 16-12 lead early but the Boilermakers scored the next four to tie it up.
A 3 by Roby, Nebraska’s fifth of the game on its first seven attempts, put the Huskers up 19-16 but Ryan Cline answered for Purdue with a 3 of his own off an offensive rebound, sparking an 8-0 run that gave the Boilermakers a 24-19 lead.
Watson ended the Purdue run with back-to-back buckets, beginning an 8-0 run for Nebraska that put the Huskers back in front 27-24. Purdue answered with six straight before Tanner Borchardt drew a foul on a put-back attempt and hit both free throws. A 3 by Aaron Wheeler put Purdue back up four but Allen scored on a layup then Palmer knocked down a catch-and-shoot 3, his first field goal of the game, to give the Huskers the lead again.
After trading scores, Ryan Cline knocked down a 3-pointer with a few seconds left in the half and Palmer couldn’t get a runner from the top of the key at the buzzer to fall. The Boilermakers took a 38-36 lead into halftime.
After their hot start from deep, Nebraska cooled off from the perimeter and hit just one of its last five 3-point attempts of the first half. The Huskers shot 7-of-19 inside the arc but five offensive rebounds yielded 10 second-chance points for the Huskers compared to just three points on three boards for Purdue.
Watson led all scorers with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half. Purdue star guard Carsen Edwards had was held to seven points on 3-of-7 shooting.
Borchardt split a pair of free throws (aided by a Purdue lane violation) to pull Nebraska within one 50 seconds into the second half but Purdue scored the next two baskets, both following offensive rebounds. That set the tone for the half as the Boilermakers dominated the offensive glass after Nebraska won that battle in the first half.
Unlike the last game between the two teams, Purdue couldn’t find a way to pull away as the Huskers hung around all game long. The Boilermakers never led by more than two possessions until the final minute.
Purdue pushed the lead to five or six then Nebraska would answer, cutting it to two or four time after time. A 3-pointer by Watson pulled Nebraska wishing two at 56-54 with just under six-and-a-half minutes to play.
Purdue’s next eight points all came on second-chance opportunities as the Huskers struggled to finish possessions even when they got stops. Nebraska got one defensive rebound during that stretch. In fact, that rebound was the only one Nebraska got from the 11:30 mark to the 30-second mark.
Edwards followed up his own missed 3 and drew Roby’s fourth foul, hitting both free throws. After free throws by Palmer, Haarms followed up a its by Nojel Eastern for a bucket. Allen scored on the other end then Nebraska forced Purdue to run down the shot clock before a shot by Haarms missed everything, but the Huskers couldn’t corral the ball and it went out of bounds with one second on the shot clock. After the under-4 media timeout, Purdue executed a baseline out-of-bounds play perfectly and got Eifert a layup.
“I threw my water bottle,” Miles said about his frustration after that play. “You know, I look at it overall and I’m like, ‘OK, did we follow the game plan?’ Yes, I thought we did. We did a good job harassing their perimeter guys. We did a very good job on Carsen Edwards. His efficiency was not great. You know that when you’ve committed two to the ball on all those [dribble handoffs] that you might be weak rebounding. We knew we were going to play Haarms and [Trevion] Williams straight up in the post, but two at a time. So you put yourself in a position, and it comes down to a couple extra effort plays or whatever it might be, and that’s why Purdue is Purdue. Matt Painter is one of the best coaches in the country, there’s no doubt about it, but I thought our kids really did a great job.”
Watson missed a 3 on the other end but Borchardt grabbed the board and covered a three-point play to pull the Huskers within one at 62-61 with 2:53 to play.
Nebraska forced a turnover by Edwards but Palmer couldn’t capitalize. Palmer blocked a 3 by Edwards on the other end late in the shot clock, but Watson failed to block Eifert out and the former walk-on redirected the miss into the basket.
Nebraska got Allen an open look from 3 but he couldn’t get it to fall. The Huskers fouled Eifert in the bonus and he hit both free throws, capping a personal 6-3 run that put the Boilermakers up 66-61 with 1:06 to play. Watson missed a shot at the basket and Harms hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to seven. The Huskers extended the game with fouls but the closest they got was three on an uncontested layup at the buzzer by Watson.
Edwards did not hit a shot in the second half, scoring all six of his points from the free-throw line, but Haarms put up 13 of his team-high 17 in the second half. He added nine rebounds and four blocks to his line before fouling out in the final minute. Edwards finished with 13 points on 3-of-16 shooting with five turnovers.
The Boilermakers out rebounded the Huskers 16 to eight on the Purdue side of the floor, outscoring the Huskers 16 to four in second chance points in the second half. Purdue only hot 29 percent form the field including 1-of-14 from 3 but they shot 18-of-21 from the free-throw line.
The Huskers will now look ahead to a road trip through Michigan. On Thursday the Huskers will face the Wolverines in Ann Arbor before swinging through East Lansing on March. 5.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. 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.