By Tommy Rezac
Purdue got off to a 10-2 start less than three minutes into the game, and took its first by double-digit lead (23-12) with 11:51 left in the first half.
Nebraska pulled to within single digits three times after that, but never got closer than seven points.
The Boilermakers (15-2, 4-0 Big Ten) bullied the Huskers (11-6, 2-2 Big Ten) defensively and won their eleventh straight game 74-62 on Saturday in front of 14,804 fans at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN.
“We didn’t come out and set the tone early,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said on his postgame show on the Husker Sports Network. “You’ve got to play from the front to beat these ranked teams on the road, and we didn’t do that.”
Both teams made their share of mistakes, but Purdue did a better job capitalizing off of them.
Each team had 16 turnovers. The Boilermakers outscored Nebraska in points-off-turnovers 19-10.
Purdue led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but the Huskers cut it to a 33-26 deficit with 2:36 to go in the first half.
That’s as close as Nebraska got the rest of the game. A three-pointer by senior guard Dakota Mathias with 21 seconds left gave Purdue a 41-31 halftime lead.
Mathias finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
“(Nebraska) just hung in there,” Miles said, “They jumped on us 27-12 right away, and then (Purdue) had 41 points their next 57 possessions, which is excellent defense on the road. Anybody in the world would take that.”
Both teams had a slow start coming out of the locker room, scoring a combined 11 points in the first 8:04 of the second half.
Nebraska hit only four of their first 18 shots after halftime.
Purdue hit 11 of their first 15 shots to start the game, but just 16 of their final 46. The Boilermakers were able to hold their lead by keeping Nebraska in check defensively, blocking six shots to Nebraska’s one, outrebounding the Huskers 39-30, and outdoing Nebraska in second chance points 13-5.
“I can understand us getting down on second chance points 13-5,” Miles said. “But, we can’t lose points-off-turnovers 19-10. That’s giving them nine points they don’t deserve. We’re a better ball-handling team than that. We’ve got to be more poised and more disciplined in those situations.”
Junior guard James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 22 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Isaac Copeland was the only other Husker in double figures with 16 points.
For Purdue, senior forward Vincent Edwards took the game over early on with 17 first-half points. He capped his seventh double-double of the season with 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Senior center Isaac Haas, who picked up two fouls within the first 10 minutes, still scored 14 points in 18 minutes. He also had six rebounds and two assists.
The Boilermakers advanced to 11-0 at home and won their 13th game this season by 10 points or more.
This type of result wasn’t a complete surprise, but Miles was encouraged by the effort.
“I don’t take pleasure in losing, but I like the way these kids fight,” Miles said. “Knowing that we stayed with it and played with a lot of heart, but (we) just didn’t quite have those couple of decisions here, there and the ‘otherwhere’ that are the difference between winning on the road, or playing this thing down to a one or two-possession game late.
“(Purdue) is a team that’s very inside-oriented. That’ll get us ready for Wisconsin with Ethan Happ (16.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg), and we’re going to need that.”
Nebraska is back home on Tuesday night to face Wisconsin (9-8, 2-2) at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
The Badgers lost 64-60 at Rutgers on Friday night, snapping a five-game winning streak.
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.