Seriously people, I am going to open this with a stern scolding that you should have listened to what we said about any given night on the podcast. This team is exciting, and games like this are why you need to watch every game. This was a great game to watch, a historic moment in Nebraska basketball history, and a huge upset to open home conference season play at PBA.
The Huskers returned to the Vault for their first home game in 7 games. The previous 6 have all been on the road, the longest streak since 1983. For the conference home-opener, still down Jervay Green and with Samari Curtis having left the team, the starting line-up stayed the same as Indiana:
To paraphrase Anchorman, “my, that escalated quickly!” After losing the tip and giving up a quick dunk to Purdue big-man Matt Haarms, the Cornhuskers answered quickly. Thor drained a three-pointer with the assist from Cam Mack.
Then Hannif Cheatham got the steal on the ensuing defensive play and dished it out to Dachon Burke Jr. for the layup and stretched the lead to three. Nebraska continued on a run to get a 12-2 lead at the 15:46 mark when Thor drained yet another three off a Cam Mack assist. Overall, the opening run has a great highlight reel to enjoy, including:
However, after Thor’s three with 15:46 left in the half, we suffered yet another long scoring drought, giving up the lead briefly to Purdue as they crawled back to take a two point lead. The Huskers ended the 9:57 scoring drought finally with a lay-up by Cam Mack, and finished out the half on another great run with more fantastic effort by the Huskers. Halftime saw Nebraska up 34-23.
Overall, the Huskers were 6/17 from three point range, outrebounded Purdue on the defensive end 21-14, got 11 points off turnovers, outscored Purdue in the paint by 6, and had 8 fast break points. What a stat sheet, eh?!
And cue half-time:
The Huskers came out strong to open the second-half. In fact, when Haanif Cheatham made a three with 16:34 left to take the 42-27 lead, it was the biggest deficit Purdue faced all season. Over the first ten minutes of the half, every time it seemed like Purdue was crawling back, the Huskers came up with big shot after big shot to keep it at a comfortable lead. Purdue’s size a problem? Nope, guess not:
Then, Purdue finally mounted a big comeback and got within 2 on a Husker drought when Nojel Eastern got a layup off an assist from Haarms at the 8:13 mark, 52-50. However, some big Husker plays including watching Charlie Easley boxing out Haarms and then driving to the rim to draw a foul at the 6:10 mark.
This is when Haarms committed the foul on Easley, but came down hard and appeared to hit his head. Haarms headed to the locker room likely with a concussion and wasn’t seen again court-side for the night. Easley proceeded to make both free throws after the official timeout, and Nebraska went on to close out the game on a 16-6 run.
Let’s put the exclamation mark on this win, shall we:
Huskers get the win 70-56 to move to 1-1 in conference play.
Big Ten teams are now 12-0 in conference play at home.
Some of the stats highlights to take-away from this one include winning the defensive glass 38-30 over Purdue, 78% shooting from the free throw line, and 22 team assists. Defensively, the Huskers held Purdue to only 30% shooting from the field and 17% from deep. Nebraska showed effort at the small things that matter like getting a body on a man, and it was great to see.
For individual players, Dachon Burke Jr. led the team with 18 points, going 4-7 from deep and 7-13 from the field. Thorir Thorbjarnarson was second on the team with 13 points, including 5-6 from the free throw line (all coming in the final minutes). Cheatham also chimed in with 9 points.
However, the big news on the day was Cam Mack getting the first triple-double in Nebrasketball history! Mack scored 11 points, grabbed 10 boards, and dished out 12 assists. Not only was it the first ever triple-double by a player in Nebraska history, he is also only the 5th big ten player in last five years to do so.
And that’s a wrap on this one folks. Fred Hoiberg got his first Big Ten win, Husker history with a triple-double, and one exciting and fun to watch home conference opener in the books! Now it’s back to non-conference play for the rest of the month with Nebraska back in action Saturday, December 21st at 5 pm central time against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks at PBA.
Oh, and in the post game interview, you’ll want to be sure to tune into Matt Painter’s comments about the Husker crowd at PBA:
Also of note from the post-game was this fun point by Coach Painter:
Painter said this was the first time he didn’t even bother watching film of last year’s game.— Robin Washut (@RobinWashut) December 15, 2019
“Why would I do that? Just to watch Thor play for eight minutes?"