The Nebraska men’s basketball team battled No. 15 Purdue for 40 minutes Saturday afternoon, but the Huskers came up just short of an upset in a 75-72 loss to the Boilermakers at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
In a close game that featured six ties and 11 lead changes, Nebraska could never quite get over the hump in the second half. The Huskers never led in the second half, despite pulling to within two eight times in the final 20 minutes. With the loss, Nebraska saw its two-game home winning streak snapped, as the Huskers fell to 15-13 on the season and 5-12 in Big Ten Conference play.
The Huskers received a big game from Glynn Watson Jr., who scored a season-high 25 points and was 5-of-9 from the 3-point line. James Palmer Jr. added 15 points and dished out a season-high eight assists, while Thomas Allen had nine points and Isaiah Roby scored seven points and pulled down six rebounds. Amir Harris added a career-high-tying six points off the bench.
Purdue (20-7, 13-3 Big Ten) was led by Matt Haarms, who scored 17 points – one shy of his career high – and grabbed nine rebounds. Carsen Edwards, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, chipped in 13 points, but the Huskers held him to just 3-of-16 shooting, including misses on his final 12 attempts. Ryan Cline also added 13 points for the Boilermakers.
Nebraska out-shot Purdue, as the Huskers hit 41.0 percent of their field goals while limiting the Boilermakers to 37.7 percent. But Purdue was 23-of-26 at the free throw line (88.5 percent), and the Boilermakers out-rebounded Nebraska by 18, including a 31-12 advantage in the second half. In the final 20 minutes, Purdue pulled down 16 offensive rebounds, as 17 of the Boilermaker’s 37 second-half points came following offensive rebounds.
In a first half that featured 11 lead changes, Nebraska got off to a fast start behind Watson, who opened the game with three straight 3-pointers to scoring Nebraska’s first nine points. Allen added another three and Watson converted a layup during a 5-0 spurt that gave Nebraska a 14-10 lead nearly six minutes into the game. But Purdue answered by scoring 12 of the next 15 points, including an 8-0 run that put the Boilermakers in front 24-19 halfway through the period.
But Nebraska answered Purdue’s eight-point run with an 8-0 spurt of its own, as Nebraska regained the lead at 27-24. After Purdue retook the lead with six straight points, Palmer gave Nebraska a 34-33 lead with 2:15 remaining in the half on his only 3-pointer of the game. Palmer added two more free throws with under a minute to play, and Nebraska appeared headed to the locker room with the lead until Cline hit a 3-pointer for Purdue with two seconds left in the half, giving the Boilermakers a 38-36 lead at the break.
Both teams shot the ball well in the first half. Purdue made 47 percent of its shots and was 5-of-12 from the 3-point line, while Nebraska was 6-of-12 from long range while shooting 42 percent overall in the first half. Watson scored 15 first-half points for the Huskers.
In the second half, Nebraska quickly trimmed the lead to one on a Tanner Borchardt free throw before Purdue scored seven of the next nine points to grab a six-point lead. Four straight points pulled the Huskers back within two and Nebraska remained within five points of the Boilermakers for the next 13 minutes.
Nebraska pulled to within two at 56-54 with 5:22 to play, and it remained a one-possession game until a 6-0 Purdue run gave the Boilermakers their largest lead of the game at 68-61 with 49 seconds remaining. Palmer hit a pair of free throws on each of Nebraska’s next three possessions and Watson scored five points in the final 10 seconds, but Purdue made 18 of its 21 second-half free throws, including 9-of-12 in the final minute to hold on for its 20th win of the season.
The Huskers hit the road, playing their next two games in the state of Michigan against top-10 teams. Nebraska begins the road trip next Thursday with a 6 p.m. contest at No. 7 Michigan on ESPN.