It might be early in the season, but it’s safe to say that both No. 4 Purdue and Nebraska have so far exceeded expectations bestowed upon them just as Big Ten play is getting started.
With that in mind, it should be an intriguing matchup when the Boilermakers visit Nebraska on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln, Neb.
Purdue wasn’t ranked to start the preseason but has stormed off to a 9-0 start overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play.
The Boilermakers are coming off an 85-66 win over Hofstra at home on Wednesday, in yet another game where junior center Zach Edey dominated.
Edey scored 23 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in that game. Edey enters Saturday averaging 23.2 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.
Purdue head coach Matt Painter said the big reason for Edey’s success is that he is full-go every game.
“Guys his size don’t go after every rebound,” Painter said. “He goes after every rebound. He gives an effort. He gives a great effort. He’s just not one of those big dudes who sits there and scores baskets because he’s big. He’s got a good skill level and he’s got a good motor.”
Beyond Edey, Purdue is getting contributions from a variety of sources in what is a balanced attack.
Freshmen guards Fletcher Loyer (12.1 points per game) and Braden Smith (9.4 ppg) have made immediate impacts, while junior Brandon Newman, sophomore Caleb Furst and junior Mason Gillis have provided shooting, defense and rebounding for the Boilermakers.
Purdue will put its unbeaten record on the line against a Nebraska team that has also gotten off to a better start than most expected.
Picked last in the Big Ten to start the season, the Cornhuskers (6-4, 0-1) recorded a 10-point win over then No. 7 Creighton on Sunday.
Nebraska did drop its Big Ten opener on Wednesday when it fell 81-65 at Indiana. But the Hoosiers are ranked No. 14 in the nation and the Cornhuskers found out right before the game they were going to have to play without one of its best players.
Senior Sam Griesel, who is averaging 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and a team-leading 4.9 assists per game, missed the game with an illness.
“One of the big things it affects from our standpoint is that we become pretty small without Sam out there,” Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He gives us a 6-7 point guard. He gives us length on the perimeter and he’s an excellent rebounder for his position. We’ve won every game but one before (Wednesday) on the glass.”
Nebraska does have other weapons to rely on if Griesel can’t go against Purdue, namely senior forward Derrick Walker (15.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg), sophomore C.J. Wilcher (11.4 ppg) and junior Keisei Tominaga (10.7 ppg).
This will be the first of two regular season meetings between the Boilermakers and Cornhuskers in Big Ten play. The teams will meet again on Jan. 13 at Purdue.
–Field Level Media