Latest Team Rankings
Free Rivals Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
February 22, 2014
Pitchford expected to play Sunday versus Purdue
As Nebraska looks to continue its march towards the NCAA Tournament, it got some very good news at the start of Saturday's practice. Head coach Tim Miles announced that sophomore forward Walter Pitchford, who left NU's win over Penn State late in the second half with a knee injury, not only practiced on Saturday, but would be good to go for the Huskers' home game against Purdue on Sunday.
Though it looked much worse when the 6-foot-10 Pitchford was laying on the Pinnacle Bank Arena court clutching his left knee, Miles said the injury was only a knee bruise similar to what sophomore forward Shavon Shields suffered earlier in the season. While Pitchford's knee is still very sore, he was able to practice through the pain for about 25 minutes and spent the rest of the session on the exercise bike.
"He looked good," Miles said. "I expect him to play tomorrow It's a knee bruise, just almost like Shavon's. It's right below on the knee. It hurts. It hurts to move it, and it hurts to bang it, all that I thought he practiced pretty well. Is he 100 percent? I don't know, but when he moved, he seemed to move fine."
How many minutes the Huskers can get from Pitchford on Sunday remains to be seen, but he's slated to be in his usual spot in the starting lineup and will likely play as long as he can tolerate the pain. Just having him available is certainly a big lift for Nebraska, as Pitchford has been playing as well as he has all year the past month, averaging 12.1 points over the last seven games.
If Pitchford is limited, Miles said there wouldn't be any major changes to NU's rotation, as players like juniors David Rivers and Leslee Smith would be counted on to play more minutes in the post. One new wrinkle that could be added to the game plan is Rivers seeing some time at the center spot, a role he had briefly last season when Brandon Ubel was out with an injury.
Of course, the matchup with Purdue isn't exactly the most ideal given the situation, as the Boilermakers feature one of the best true centers in the Big Ten Conference in 7-foot sophomore A.J. Hammons.
"If I am there at that (center) spot, I've got to be smarter and use my quickness around him," Rivers said. "Some of the challenges with him are his length and strength. He's 7-foot, probably 250. I mean, it's a challenge, but it's a challenge every night against any team, so we try not to look at any different from any game."
In Nebraska's first meeting with Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. - a 70-64 defeat back on Jan. 12 - Hammons led the Boilermakers with 18 points and four blocked shots. Miles said he counted seven missed layups by the Huskers in that game, and he credited Hammons with altering at least four of those on top of his blocks.
Regardless of which players help carry the load in the paint for Nebraska on Sunday, it's no secret that containing Hammons on both ends of the floor will be priority No. 1 all day long.
"It's huge. It's huge," Shields said. "He's a guy that can give you 24 and 18 any night, and we just need to keep him off the boards and can't let him get going. Keep giving him different looks and just keep him uncomfortable, because he's a huge part of their team. He's the anchor down low. He's their star player, and we just can't let him get going."