basketball Edit

Huskers fall apart down the stretch in 75-58 loss to Purdue

Nebraska put together one of its better all-around games of the Big Ten Conference season against Purdue on Saturday.

Yet that still wasn’t enough to keep up with the Boilermakers for a full 40 minutes, as the Huskers fell 75-58 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Despite having four players finish with at least nine points and getting 37 points from its bench, NU couldn’t stop a 29-9 Boilermaker run over the final 13 minutes that turned a three-point lead into a 17-point defeat.

Sasha Stefanovich, who didn’t score in the first half, finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range to help break the game open for Purdue.

A 29-9 Purdue run over the final 13 minutes was too much for Nebraska to overcome in a 75-58 loss o Saturday.
A 29-9 Purdue run over the final 13 minutes was too much for Nebraska to overcome in a 75-58 loss o Saturday. (Associated Press)

Nebraska fell behind 12-4 out of the gates, but it fired back with an 11-2 run and took their first lead at 15-14 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Trey McGowens and Kobe Webster.

But Purdue quickly regained control by hitting six straight shots – including four 3-pointers – to take its largest lead yet at 38-27 with just under two minutes left in the half.

Just when it seemed like the Boilermakers were about to run away with it, the Huskers rallied again to close the first half on a 10-2 run and trimmed the deficit to 40-37 at the break after a buzzer-beater three by Thorir Thorbjarnarson.

Nebraska made seven 3-pointers in the first half, and three of those came in the final 1:42. The Huskers’ bench also accounted for 24 of their 37 points, led by Webster's seven points.

Another three by Thorbjarnarson extended NU’s scoring run to 15-2 and put NU back on top 42-40 to start the second half. Teddy Allen's jumper increased the lead to three with just over 13 minutes left, but the wheels would quickly fall off from there.

Purdue suddenly caught fire while Nebraska couldn’t buy a bucket, which resulted in the Boilermakers out-scouring NU 29-9 the rest of the way. PU hit three 3-pointers, two dunks and had a four-point possession during that stretch.

Nebraska never got closer than 10 the rest of the way, falling to 5-15 overall and 1-12 in Big Ten play.

Jaden Ivey led Purdue (15-8, 10-6) with a game-high 15 points, as the Boilermakers shot 46.9 percent and made 10 threes in the win.

The Huskers hit nine 3-pointers of their own and had 14 assists on 22 makes, but they ended up shooting just 28 percent from the field, 2-of-11 from behind the arc, and 1-of-7 from the free-throw line in the second half.

Shamiel Stevenson was the only Husker to score in double figures with 10 points, while McGowens, Thorbjarnarson, and Webster all finished with nine.

Nebraska will return to action on Tuesday night when it hosts Penn State for a 7 p.m. CT tip at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

3-POINT PLAY

1. Nebraska’s bench was great, but the staters didn’t show up

On the bright side, Nebraska’s 37 bench points were its highest total in Big Ten play and its third-most this season.

Thorbjarnarson played one of his best games as a Husker, posting nine points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal in 21 minutes.

Stevenson led NU with 10 points to go along with six rebounds in 21 minutes. Yvan Ouedraogo played 19 minutes, his most since 26 at Michigan State on Jan. 2, and his seven points and eight boards were both his highs in league play.

However, that spark from the bench was paired with one of the worst combined efforts by the starting five.

Allen, McGowens, Dalano Banton, Lat Mayen, and Derrick Walker totaled just 21 points and seven turnovers. Only McGowens (31) played more than 19 minutes.

The final plus/minus ratings were even worse. Mayen ended up at -27, while Allen and Banton were right behind at -26. McGowens and Walker were both -10.

It requires a full-team effort for Nebraska to win games this season, and having those types of performances from such key players will not get it done.

2. The Huskers picked their poison on defense

Again, there was a bright side for Nebraska defensively as well.

Purdue big man Trevion Williams, who has been one of the Big Ten’s best overall players this season, was held to a modest nine points and three rebounds and two turnovers in only 21 minutes on the floor.

That’s because the Huskers chose to do everything they could to take him out of the game and make someone else beat them.

That plan worked great until two previously struggling Boilermakers answered the call with breakout outings.

Ivey, who came in shooting just 36 percent from the field and 19 percent from behind the arc this season, stepped up with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting and hit two 3-pointers to open the game.

After missing three games due to COVID-19, Stefanovic hadn’t made a three since Jan. 19, missing his last 10 attempts after returning to the lineup.

So, of course, he goes off to make 4-of-7 from deep in the second half to put the game away for good.

Nebraska made the right decision to put its focus on Williams and give up some 3-point looks to a Purdue team that was shooting 35 percent on threes and only making five per contest.

As it’s happened so many times over the years, though, the Boilermakers had guys go above and beyond to change the game.

3. NU needs to make the most of its time off

For the first time since returning from its month-long COVID-19 layoff, Nebraska has the luxury of playing one game in five days.

A team that just played seven outings in 12 days and will finish the year with six games over 13 days, opportunities for rest like this need to be maximized.

Head coach Fred Hoiberg said the Huskers would get the chance to hold a full-length practice in their own facility for the first time since returning to action on Feb. 6.

Just having an opportunity to both work on mistakes made in the previous game and adequately prepare for the next opponent should be a significant lift for NU.

But Nebraska also needs to find the right balance between getting in enough practice work and giving its players time to recharge mentally and physically for another grueling stretch to end the year.

How they manage the next two days could impact how these final six regular-season games play out.

THEY SAID IT

“You’ve got to always stay ready. No matter how much you play, no matter what game you get in, we’ve always got to be ready. Especially with this season and how it’s gone.”
— Senior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson on making the most of his opportunity on Saturday.