While Nebraska tries to figure out a way to win a Big Ten Conference game, No. 7 Purdue is eager to get back to action after its Tuesday night visit to Michigan was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns in the Wolverines’ program.
The Boilermakers (13-2, 2-2 Big Ten) welcome the Cornhuskers (6-11, 0-6) to West Lafayette, Ind., for a Friday night contest, hoping to climb above .500 in the conference after winning 74-67 on Saturday at Penn State.
That game represented a needed bounce-back for Purdue after it took a 74-69 upset loss at home to Wisconsin on Jan. 3. The Boilermakers leaned on experience to top Penn State, getting 21 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Trevion Williams.
Williams scored 10 points in the last eight minutes, including a bucket that gave Purdue the lead for good at 66-65 and then a game-clinching three-point play. He sat out more than eight minutes of the second half after picking up his third foul.
“When you come in and out, it’s really tough,” he said. “But, you know, from a leadership standpoint, you have to understand that whoever comes in is going to get the job done. And I think that’s how we practice, so any game is not a surprise.”
Williams picked up slack left by 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, who managed just six points and six rebounds in 10 minutes because of foul trouble. Purdue also got 13 points and six rebounds from Sasha Stefanovic.
Jaden Ivey leads four Boilermakers in double figures with an average of 16.2 points per game, while Edey adds 14.9 ppg and 7.4 rebounds in just 17.1 minutes. Williams chips in 13.5 ppg and a team-high 8.8 rebounds. Stefanovic contributes 11.3 ppg.
Purdue’s average of 85.1 ppg ranked fifth in Division I through Tuesday, and its 50.7 field-goal percentage was third. The Boilermakers also ranked in the top 10 nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage (40.8 percent, fourth), assists (18.5, seventh) and assist-turnover ratio (1.55 to 1, ninth).
Nebraska, meanwhile, appeared ready to earn its first conference win on Tuesday night when it opened up a 16-4 lead on No. 25 Illinois and still owned a second-half edge. However, the Fighting Illini ended the game with a 16-6 run that gave them an 81-71 decision.
The Cornhuskers got notable efforts from three players. Bryce McGowens led their attack with 19 points, while Alonzo Verge Jr. scored 14 points and dished out nine assists. Derrick Walker chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds.
In the end, though, it was another number in the loss column for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have won just five of their past 45 Big Ten games dating back to the 2019-20 season.
“Our effort was phenomenal,” Cornhuskers coach Fred Hoiberg said following the Illinois game. “I thought we fought them all the way until the end. Just have to execute it better at the stretch.”
Purdue owns an 11-4 lead in the teams’ series since Nebraska joined the Big Ten for the 2012-13 season, including a 75-58 victory last February in Lincoln, Neb.
–Field Level Media