It's really tempting to start this off with a comparison between what was more of a mirage, Mantei Te'o's girlfriend or the competitive games the Husker men's basketball team displayed on the road vs. the Michigan teams last week. I'm really trying hard to avoid such an obvious comparison, so I'm not going to do it. Instead how about this: The Huskers (9-9, 0-5) fell to Purdue (9-8, 3-2) after being unable to overcome a sluggish first 25 minutes to the game.
If only it were that easy. It is true that the Huskers played well in two tough environments last week, dropping both games. Those efforts gave many fans, players and coaches hope that perhaps a home game vs. a Purdue team that so far had failed to live up to the expectations that surround Boilermaker basketball would result in a different result.
While the outcome was the same as the previous four conference games, the way they got there wasn't as familiar. Ever since a similarly sluggish effort vs. Ohio State in the conference opener, the Huskers have played with a resolve and intensity that had kept them in games few thought they'd have much of a chance at. Instead, the Huskers came out of the locker room and struggled to get any sort of positive momentum going. They struggled to get into any offensive rhythm, were unable to defend Purdue who regularly were able to get into the lane. By the time halftime came they were down 28-19 and the only offensive spark they could find was in Shavon Shields who had 9 points.
The second half wasn't much better. Well, at least it didn't start better. The Boilermakers promptly went on a 13-2 run, after a Raphael Davis converted the three point play opening up a 20 point lead, draining any and all energy that remained in the 8,190 fans that had shown up to the Devaney Center for the evening. The Huskers didn't stop playing, however and were able to turn up the defensive pressure, switching out walk-on Jordan Tyrance for Andre Almedia and were able to go on a 19-3 run of their own to close the Purdue led to 46-40.
The Huskers were never able to get closer than that, though they sure did try. They essentially traded baskets for the next five minutes. However, the Huskers were scoring two point jumpers and layups and the Boilermakers were hitting three pointers and converted a three point play and Purdue was able to return their led back to 12 points.
There were few bright points for the Huskers, but one was the play of freshman Shavon Shields who paced the Huskers with 18 points and 8 rebounds. The Huskers also did a nice job taking care of the ball, only turning it over two times, which is a new school record. That's not much consolation for a Husker squad desperate for a win of any kind. The missed this opportunity. Their next will come on the road vs. fellow win less in conference play, Penn State Saturday afternoon.