The Husker women snapped one three-game losing streak Thursday night. On Sunday afternoon, they’ll look to end another.
Purdue (13-7 overall, 4-5 in Big Ten) is in town for a 2 p.m. contest with Nebraska (14-4, 3-4), which is fresh off a dominating 77-44 home win over the Wisconsin Badgers. The Boilermakers have won the last three meetings with the Huskers, the most recent being an 83-72 win in West Lafayette, Indiana, in December of 2020.
The Huskers and Boilermakers share win-loss similarities against common conference opponents. Both have losses to No. 23 Iowa and No. 6 Indiana this season. Purdue took the Hoosiers into overtime before falling 73-68 while Nebraska fell in an early hole in Bloomington but rallied to make things interesting in the final minutes, ultimately coming short with a 72-65 defeat. Both teams beat Minnesota, which has since landed near the bottom of the conference and currently sits at 9-12 overall with a 2-7 mark in Big Ten play.
One win that Purdue doesn’t have that Nebraska does is against No. 7 Michigan. The Huskers defended their home court against the Wolverines earlier this month and blew them out 79-58. The Boilermakers didn’t have the same luck against Michigan, losing 79-66. That’s a two-way street, however, as Purdue owns a win over Michigan State, the same team that beat the Huskers in December behind Nia Clouden’s 32 points.
What’s Purdue bring to the table? The Boilermakers are good at shooting the 3, defending the 3 and racking up assists—much like Nebraska is. The two teams compare pretty well to each other.
- Purdue ranks 23rd in the country in 3-point defense, holding opponents to just 25% from behind the arc. The Huskers rank 25th at 25%, too.
- The Boilermakers are averaging 16 assists per game, good for 32nd in the country. Nebraska is dishing out 17.8, 15th.
- Both teams are making over eight 3s per game and are in the top-40 nationally in that category. The Huskers are at 8.8, the Boilermakers 8.1.
Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley has been a big reason for those numbers. The 5-foot-9 Oregon transfer is leading the team in average scoring (13.2), rebounding (7.6), assists (4.7), steals (1.8) and has the most blocks on the team with 20.
Even when Shelley isn’t scoring, she’s still helping her team. The win over Wisconsin was an example of that. The Moe, Australia, native didn’t score until the fourth quarter and ended with five points, but she nearly recorded a double-double anyway with nine assists and nine rebounds.
“I thought Jaz really helped us play with pace and push tempo and made great decisions with her passes, and because of that we were really able to have a positive assist-to-turnover (20-9) ratio,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said after the game.
Shelley was the one who pushed the ball up the court and got the offense in rhythm early. She whipped passes around the arc, making the Badger defense work. She also had success finding weak spots in the Wisconsin zone, which led to scores for Nebraska two forwards, Alexis Markowski (15 points) and Bella Cravens (7).
These days, it’s important for Shelley’s teammates to have their heads on a swivel. They might be wrong if they assume there’s no way a pass will be coming their way.
“I think she sees passes that nobody else sees,” Williams said of Shelley, “and it’s funny because there was one play in this game where I know she took Lex a little bit off guard and we kind of got tied up in the paint, but Lex and I at practice the other day, we were like, ‘Hey, when Jaz has the ball in her hands, you never know when it might come your way, you better always stay alert.’
“She passes people open sometimes and just has a really strong impact on the game, even if she only scores five points.”
Who will the Huskers need to keep an eye on Sunday? Madison Layden would be a good one. The 6-1 guard is Purdue’s leading scorer at 13.2 points per game and has the most steals with 35. In the Boilermakers’ win over Minnesota on Thursday, she scored 16 points, went 4-of-8 from 3 and tied her season-high in steals with four. She’ll come into the game as a 35% (47-of-131) 3-point shooter.
Like Nebraska, Purdue has its own Australian guard who’s playing well. Abbey Ellis is a 5-6 guard from Melbourne who’s averaging 11.2 points while shooting 39% (23-of-58) from 3. Purdue has a do-everything player in Jeanae Terry, too, a 5-11 guard who recorded her second triple-double of the season in the win over Minnesota with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. She’s averaging 7.4 points, 5.9 boards and a team-best 5.6 assists per game.