WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue raced out to a big early lead, Zach Edey scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Jaden Ivey added 17 points and the No. 7 Boilermakers ran away from Nebraska in the second half at Mackey Arena tonight, winning 92-65 in front of a sellout crowd of 14,804.
The Boilers improved to 14-2 and 3-2 in Big Ten play.
- Rested and ready: Purdue was the better-rested team after having the previous five days off following the cancellation of a Wednesday game against Michigan because of coronavirus cases in the Wolverines' program. The Boilermakers played like they had fresh legs in the opening minutes against the Cornhuskers, racing out to a 23-4 lead punctuated when Ivey slammed home a two-handed put-back dunk off a missed transition layup from Mason Gillis. It was one of the best stretches of the season for Purdue, especially on defense, where the Boilermakers held Nebraska to 2-for-8 shooting and forced six turnovers. On offense, the Boilers were aggressive and ready to run, pushing the ball up the court and either scoring or drawing fouls. They got in the bonus within 4:21 of the opening tipoff. It was the kind of basketball coach Matt Painter had been hoping for on both ends and it got the Mackey Arena crowd, packed in like sardines all the way up to the rafters, into the game immediately. So much for rust after a long layoff.
- Playing with a lead remains a problem: Painter talked extensively Thursday about his concerns about Purdue's ability to play with a lead. He noted once the Boilermakers get a double-digit advantage, they invariably change their shot selection and let teams back into games, a flaw that has cost them both of the contests they've lost this season, against Rutgers and Wisconsin, and nearly lost them a game against Iowa. It didn't cost them against Nebraska – the Cornhuskers are not nearly good enough to dig out of a 19-point hole against a team as good as Purdue – but the Boilermakers once again let an opponent hang around longer than it should have. Part of the problem was on defense, where Purdue's intensity waned somewhat as it settled into the game, and Nebraska made life difficult with an uncharacteristically strong 3-point-shooting performance (the Huskers went 8 for 19 after coming into the game at 29% as a team, one of the worst marks in the country). But shot selection remained an issue, with the Boilers taking a series of quick 3s when the lead became sizable. Ivey made two such 3s in the first half, but missed two in the second half and the second left Painter with his arms outstretched as if to ask "What are you doing?" True, Purdue eventually stretched the lead to as many as 30, but it was a slog to get there after the early burst.
- Active hands lead to an active scoreboard: While Purdue's defensive performance wasn't dominant all night, the one area in which the Boilers excelled for 40 minutes was in forcing turnovers, especially live-ball turnovers. They pressured Nebraska up and down the court and got in passing lanes over and over again. When the Cornhuskers drove into the lane, there was a flurry of hands clawing and swiping at the ball and when it got loose, Purdue was quicker to it most of the time. The most important piece of Purdue's propensity for forcing turnovers was its ability to cash them in with points. The Boilermakers did an outstanding job of getting out in transition when they forced live-ball miscues and it helped get Nebraska in foul trouble from the opening minute onward. Purdue was in the bonus for the vast majority of the game, drawing Nebraska's seventh foul less than seven minutes into each half. As a result, the Boilers rolled up a 28-7 advantage in points off turnovers (Purdue gave the ball away 10 times while Nebraska did so on 17 occasions) and shot 27 free throws compared to 13 for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is not a particularly stingy team when it comes to taking care of the ball, but that's exactly what the Boilers want from their defense.
Player of the Game: Zach Edey
The Cornhuskers had no answers for the Boilermaker center, but guarded him with only one defender for most of the game. Edey responded by feasting from the post: he got deep position, kept the ball high, finished around the rim and cleaned the glass. He came into the game No. 2 in the country in field goal percentage at 71% and improved upon that, shooting 9 for 12 from the field. The sophomore has scored at least 20 points six times this season and in three of his last four games. He also had two blocks.
The Purdue student section was in attendance officially for the first time in 42 days. ... With the victory, Purdue coach Matt Painter surpassed Michigan State's Jud Heathcote on the all-time wins list in Big Ten games (183). The win was the 200th overall conference triumph of Painter's coaching career, including his time at Southern Illinois. ... The Boilermakers have won 13 straight games as the No. 7 team in the country. ... The Boilers are one of only two teams in the country that has not suffered a double-digit loss since Feb. 1, 2021. Loyola Chicago is the other. ... Purdue is 8-0 all-time at Mackey Arena against Nebraska. ... The Cornhuskers are 5-41 in Big Ten play under coach Fred Hoiberg and 0-7 this season. ... Purdue has won 110 straight games when scoring 90 or more points, a streak stretching back to 1987. ... Sasha Stefanovic's first-half 3 moved him into a 10th-place tie with Cuonzo Martin on the all-time Purdue list. ... Fort Wayne native and Blackhawk Christian graduate Caleb Furst played 16 minutes and had 10 points on 3 for 3 from the field. In the second half, he drained his first 3 since Nov. 30. ... Purdue held a 21-4 advantage in second-chance points.
The Boilermakers will return to action Monday, when they travel to the State Farm Center in Champaign to take on the No. 25 Illinois (12-3, 5-0 Big Ten), one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the conference. The game will tip off at noon and will be broadcast on Fox. Illinois has won five in a row including Big Ten victories over Nebraska, Maryland and Minnesota. Illini 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn averages 22 points on 60% shooting, 12.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.