Any momentum Nebraska gained from its impressive win over Illinois quickly went out the window on Wednesday night, as the Huskers were dominated essentially from the opening tip in what ended in an 83-65 loss to Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.
After trailing by 17 points at the end of the first half, Nebraska (12-14 overall, 4-11 in Big Ten) did its best just to keep the score respectable the rest of the way.
Senior forward Robbie Hummel had one of his best performances of the season for the Boilermakers, scoring a game-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks.
Once again, defense as a whole was a problem for the Huskers all night, as it allowed Purdue (18-10, 8-7) to shoot 54.5 percent from the field and hit 13 3-pointers to lead by as many as 23 points at one point in the second half.
"You've got to give those guys (Purdue) credit," head coach Doc Sadler said on his post-game radio show on the Husker Sports Network. "They obviously shot the ball extremely well, and they're a difficult basketball team to defend when they shoot the ball as a well as they do.
"Offensively I thought we were OK. You go on the road and score 65 points, but we had no answer for them defensively. They spread you out. They had three shooters on the floor, and they got us in mismatches and they made the shots. It's just a very difficult team to defend when you've got three perimeter shooter shooting the basketball as well as they did."
While the Huskers didn't play all that badly in the first half as a whole, Purdue's shooting made it look like a horrible start to the game for NU.
Behind Hummel, who scored 18 of his 29 points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, the Boilermakers jumped out to an early lead and didn't look back until the buzzer sounded to end the half.
Purdue got started with an 11-3 run midway through the half that was aided by eight consecutive points by Hummel and gave the Boilermakers, who made 10 of their first 12 shots in the game, a 25-12 lead with 10:40 to go.
A few minutes later, Purdue put together an 8-0 run that pushed its lead up to 15 with 3:15 remaining in the half. A flagrant foul on senior guard Toney McCray with just over two minutes before halftime led to four more unanswered points and helped UP close out the half on a 7-2 run and take a 47-30 lead into halftime.
Nebraska shot 12-of-15 from the floor as a team in the first half, but Purdue one-upped that by hitting 63.3 percent of its shots (19-of-30), including going 7-of-15 from 3-point range. The 47 points tied for the most Purdue has scored in one half since the start of Big Ten play this season.
"When you score I think 21 points in the first half from 3 and 25 inside the lane, either on put-backs or drop-offs, that's just such balance," Sadler said. "I mean, you've got to pick and choose one of the two to take away, and the people who have beaten them have made them make the 3-point shot, but tonight they definitely made it."
The second half didn't start any better for the Huskers, as the Boilermakers eventually bumped their lead up to 58-35 on a 3-pointer by guard D.J. Byrd, who scored all 15 of his points on five 3-pointers.
Nebraska was able to cut it down to 14 points with a little more than eight minutes to play, but that would be as close as it would get the rest of the way.
Senior point guard Bo Spencer led NU with 19 points, though 14 of those came in the second half with the game well in hand. Along with Hummel and Byrd, the Boilermakers had three other players score in double figures in the win, including 12 points on four 3-pointers by guard Ryne Smith.
"It was a big game for them, and so we got a great effort from them," Sadler said. "Again, when you go on the road and teams shoot it as well as you do, you've got to just hang in there and be tough, and I thought at times tonight we got frustrated, but we fought our way back. We cut it to 14 in the in the second half with 10 minutes to go, so we didn't completely just say the heck with it.
"As well as they were shooting the basketball - what did they make, 13 3s? - that's like seven dunk shots. This place got into the game when they made them, so give Purdue credit, but at the same time, we've got to defend a little better than we did."
The Huskers will return to action on Saturday when they travel to take on No. 6 Michigan State up in East Lansing, Mich., with tip-off set for 7 p.m. CT.
"I think Michigan State is right now one of the three or four teams that, the way they're playing right now, could win a national championship," Sadler said. "So it's definitely not going to be easy, but we can't be concerned with Michigan State. We've got to get back and look at it as an opportunity to go to a great place to play some basketball and compete against a very, very good basketball team."
Around the rim
***Purdue now leads the all-time series against Nebraska 7-2, and has won the last three meetings.
***Purdue's five players scoring in double figures were the most by an NU opponent this season.
***Nebraska falls to 0-3 on the season when allowing 80 or more points.
***Purdue's 47 points in the first half matched the highest first-half total by a Husker opponent this season (Oregon on Nov. 23).
***Hummel's 28-points were the second-highest total against Nebraska this season (Penn State's Tim Frazier had 30 on Jan. 11).