Purdue Defeats Nebraska for Eleventh Straight Victory

By KEITH CARRELL
@BoilerColts
ISL Purdue Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue used an early surge to build a cushion against Nebraska and both squads struggled offensively down the stretch as the Boilermakers secured their eleventh straight victory defeating the Cornhuskers 74-62 Saturday afternoon. The win put an end to Nebraska’s four game winning streak Saturday afternoon and kept the Boilers undefeated in conference action by notching their fourth win.

Tuesday night Vincent Edwards played limited minutes while dealing with foul trouble and he began Saturday’s game with fresh legs and an aggressive attitude. To begin the game, Edwards was seemingly everywhere on defense, active on the boards, and probed the Nebraska defense with crisp passes, off the dribble, and in motion. In just over nine minutes Edwards had already connected on each of his five field goal attempts to contribute eleven points, three assists, and two boards.

“I thought Vincent Edwards had a great first half. I thought he played hard, rebounded the basketball, made plays, made shots; he was really good in that first half.” – Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter

As terrific as Edwards was to begin the game, Isaac Haas was equally impressive to start. The senior center was active on both ends of the floor and quickly matched his career high in assists (two) by the time he subbed out for the first time. In those first four minutes, Haas had already chipped in four points, two assists, a rebound, and blocked a shot. The inside-out duo, in a very short period of time, gave Head Coach Tim Miles and the rest of the Cornhuskers a perilous glance into how dangerous Purdue basketball can be when everything is clicking.

From an offensive standpoint, from either team, that is virtually where all efficiency and “pretty” basketball ended in Saturday’s contest. In the first half, Purdue made nearly half of their attempts (16-33; Edwards and Haas were a combined 9-12), but shot a paltry four-of-twelve from behind the arc and most of the offense came in the opening minutes. Nebraska was led by Palmer’s ten and Glynn Watson, Jr. sank a pair of threes to keep Nebraska within shouting distance as the Boilers took a 41-31 lead into the break.

Todd Mitchell, former Purdue player, was honored during halftime and spoke to the crowd. Mitchell mentioned how proud he was of the Purdue football team and joked, "Let's put some barbed wire and a moat around Coach (Jeff) Brohm's house and keep him in West Lafayette." -photo by Keith Carrell

Todd Mitchell, former Purdue player, was honored during halftime and spoke to the crowd. Mitchell mentioned how proud he was of the Purdue football team and joked, “Let’s put some barbed wire and a moat around Coach (Jeff) Brohm’s house and keep him in West Lafayette.” -photo by Keith Carrell

Out of intermission, an offensive presence was even harder to find for either team and the score didn’t change until three minutes had passed when Mathias sank a layup in transition. Prior to that bucket, the teams had combined to miss nine shots while committing three fouls and three turnovers. Without shots falling, the Boilers began to force the envelope by playing solo offense on an island rather than the motion offense utilizing passes and screens to find good looks which exacerbated the issue. The lack of ball movement and teamwork resulted in only eleven field goals finding the bottom of the nets in the second period (on 28 attempts, including two of nine from distance). Nebraska managed to one-down Purdue by making only ten of their 28 tries.

The typically strong inside presence and effective three point shooting can carry Purdue over nearly any team, but the defense is what sealed the deal versus the Cornhuskers. Purdue coughed the ball up 16 times in the game, but also helped to force Nebraska into as many turnovers. The Boilers also outrebounded the Cornhuskers by nine and blocked six shots (including two from shot-clogging machine, Haarms).

Although Edwards was unstoppable early, he teamed up with Dakota Mathias about three minutes into the game when Mathias snagged a rebound from a missed layup by James Palmer, Jr. and, with a nod to the NFL playoffs kicking off after the game, one-armed a fifty foot pass to Edwards in triple coverage. Edwards somehow was able to grab it over his shoulder, took a dribble to the rim and floated the ball up and in to give the Boilers a ten-to-two advantage.

Oft-injured and little-used Jacquil Taylor saw some action in the first period after Haas picked up his second foul and Matt Haarms had to waddle to the bench in pain after taking a shot that dropped him to the floor, as it would have any man. Painter had to pull Taylor after just three minutes, though, as his play was hurting Purdue. While he was in, Taylor missed both of his shots (including a point-blank finish to an Edwards alley-oop) and was slow to the ball allowing Isaiah Roby to get the steal (the turnover credited to passer Nojel Eastern).

“It’s all just a mindset that I take it upon (myself) in practice where I just come out and compete every day in practice so that when the gametime hits… I have the confidence and abilities to help my team,” Eastern said after the game.

Coming off of his most promising game in his young career, Eastern was able to build on that with some success against Nebraska. Eastern was able to clock in for ten minutes and contributed four points, four boards, and a block. Both of Eastern’s made field goals were and-one opportunities, but he continued to struggle from the line and missed both freebies. It won’t appear in the stat sheet, but this was likely Eastern’s best game to date as he was able to play within himself and do so without being a detriment to his team. Eastern also was able to reignite Purdue’s scoring midway through the second half after Nebraska had briefly cut the lead to nine. The freshman grabbed a blocked shot from Haas and then used a Haas screen on the other end to sink a midrange jumper and return the Purdue lead to double-digits. On the next possession, Haas muscled a shot in off the glass while drawing a foul from Roby and completed the three point play to give Purdue a 57-43 lead with 7:21 remaining. The lead remained at eleven or more the rest of the way.

“I thought (Eastern) was great. It’s a hard thing to be in that role, but you look at ten minutes, four rebounds, two-for-three (from the field)… (he) put back to back good games together… he’s had a great attitude and a great approach to things.” – Painter

In the closing minutes, things got interesting on a few occasions. With 3:23 remaining, Isaac Copeland threw home a dunk down the middle of the lane, scoring over Haas to cut the lead to 14, but Copeland must have taunted or said something displeasing as he drew a technical foul from a nearby official; Edwards sank both of the ensuing free throws. Uncharacteristically, the Boilers also struggled to beat the Cornhuskers’ press and turned the ball over four times in the closing minutes. The ball security damage was minimized as Nebraska was only able to make a single three pointer from Copeland off of those takeaways.

Next up:
Away: Michigan on Tuesday, 1/9 (9 pm, ESPN)
Away: Minnesota on Saturday, 1/13 (Noon, ESPN2)
Home: Wisconsin on Tuesday, 1/16 (7 pm, ESPN)

Quick Hits:
Each fan in attendance at Purdue’s next home will receive a free t-shirt honoring the 50th Season in Mackey Arena… Purdue continues to honor key players from Purdue’s past and had the three amigos (Todd Mitchell, Everette Stephens, and Troy Lewis) in attendance Saturday; Mitchell spoke to the crowd at the half with the rest of the trio and had his family beside him… The women’s basketball team played at Indiana Saturday and lost 72-54… Palmer and Copeland were the bulk of Nebraska’s scoring with 22 and 16 points, respectively; Palmer went 9-10 from the charity stripe… Of Purdue’s 16 turnovers, 11 came from the starters, but Edwards did not commit one… Edwards’ final stats were 21 points, ten boards, six assists, and a block playing all but one minute of the game… Both teams were solid from the charity stripe as Purdue went 14-18 and Nebraska 12-16… Purdue did not trail in the contest… Purdue, currently ranked 13th in the polls, could break into the top 10 of Division I polls after many teams ahead of the Boilers lost one or more games this week; updated rankings will be released on Monday.

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