On Thursday, Nebraska (9-11, 4-5 Big Ten) wraps up a short two-game road trip in West Lafayette against Purdue (15-7, 6-3 Big Ten) at 7 p.m. CT on BTN. The Huskers will be looking to snap a two-game slide and get back in the win column.
Here are three things to know about the game.
1. History says this will be close
Last time out, Nebraska had a two-point lead with 0.7 seconds to play. Guard Nicea Eliely drove the lane against Wisconsin for what looked like it would be a game-winning layup. With four to play, Nebraska held a 10-point lead. Wisconsin scored 10 unanswered to tie before Eliely’s bucket. But a triple from Wisconsin at the buzzer burried Nebraska.
The Huskers have been no strangers to close games this season. Seven times a game has been decided by six points or less. Nebraska is 2-5 in those games. Purdue has played seven such games, but sports a 5-2 record. While Nebraska is 1-4 in two-possession games in conference play, Purdue is 4-1. In one-possession games, Nebraska is 0-3.
And even though the last three meetings have all been decided by double digits, over the course of this series, Purdue and Nebraska have given each other their best.
The first-ever game between the two was a 93-89 triple-overtime Nebraska win at Mackey Arena on Feb. 2, 2012. The second game in the series went double-overtime one month later in Indianapolis, as Purdue won 74-70 in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game. The first meeting in Lincoln was a 69-66 overtime win for Purdue on Jan. 5, 2013. Two other games have been decided by two points or less — a 62-61 Nebraska win on Jan. 20, 2016, and a 77-75 Purdue win on Jan. 19, 2014.
In conference play, Nebraska owns a plus-0.5 scoring margin. The offense scores 66.8 points a night and the defense gives up 66.3. Purdue, a defensive-minded squad, has a plus-2.0 scoring margin, with the offense producing 62.2 a night in conference play and the defense allowing 60.2.
2. Purdue offense fueled by two
Given the style of play, points are typically at a premium, but Purdue has two scorers that are running things. Junior guard Dominique Oden and sophomore guard Karissa McLaughlin produce 30 of Purdue’s 60 a night in conference play.
Oden gets 15.9 points a night on 43 percent shooting, she’s taking a little over four 3s a game and converting at a 38 percent clip and she adds four rebounds on average to go with her scoring. McLaughlin is at 15.4 points on 42 percent shooting and 40 percent from distance (on almost seven attempts from 3 each game).
Both play nearly the entire game for Purdue (39 minutes for McLaughlin, 38 for Oden), stay out of foul trouble and take care of the basketball. McLaughlin is leading the team in assists in Big Ten play while Oden has picked up 15 steals in nine games.
Junior forward Ae’Rianna Harris provides 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds a night as the Boilermakers’ interior presence, but Nebraska will need to key on limiting Oden and McLaughlin’s effectiveness with the ball in their hands.
Eliely has 13 steals in her last three outings and is starting to solidify herself as Nebraska’s best perimeter defender. She’ll need to be on again.
3. Rebounding looms large
When Purdue wins the rebounding battle, its 14-3 on the season. When it loses the rebounding battle, it’s 1-5. Nebraska is 5-4 when winning the boards and 5-6 when losing them.
The Boilermakers have Harris inside to eat rebounds and then sophomore forward Tamara Farquhar as well, who’s averaging 8.7 boards a game in conference play. Both start. Nebraska has no one averaging even six boards a game in the starting five during conference play and only one averaging more than five.
Center Kate Cain has struggled mightily to build off a standout freshman season and freshman forward Ashtyn Veerbeek has come back down to Earth after a 19-point, eight-rebounding career outing against Illinois.
Cain’s last performance was her best of the season (14 points and seven boards). Veerbeek’s last performance was her worst (fouling out in eight minutes). The Huskers will need their two bigs to try and match Purdue’s two bigs in the paint.