The Nebraska Cornhuskers, currently enjoying their longest stretch of days off since returning from a 27-day pause, including 20 days with the program completely shut down, return to Pinnacle Bank Arena to face off against the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday afternoon. There was no game on either Thursday or Friday after having played back-to-back days in Maryland and seven games across 12 days. So two days off.
This will be the Huskers’ only game versus Purdue this season. On Friday, the Big Ten announced the final update to Nebraska’s schedule. Minnesota and Iowa games postponed during the Covid pause have been reinserted into these final two weeks of the regular season, leaving the NU-Purdue contest from January 5th in West Lafayette as the only one of 20 Big Ten games Nebraska will not make up. That game was postponed “due to an abundance of caution.”
When this month of February is over, NU will have played 11 games in the month. ELEVEN. The Huskers have not played more than eight games in the entire month of February since joining the Big Ten in the 2011-12 season. For comparison, the 2019-20 season saw Nebraska play just seven games in February. Purdue, Nebraska’s next opponent, will play just six games this month.
4:30 p.m. CST/5:30 EST Saturday, Feb. 20
Lincoln, NE - Pinnacle Bank Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
Play-by-play: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Jess Settles
Online Broadcast: Fox Sports app & foxsports.com/live
Radio: IMG College Sports Network, including 1400 AM in Lincoln, 590 AM in Omaha, 880 AM in Lexington
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Analyst: Jake Muhleisen
Online Radio: Available on Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn.com/Huskers, and TuneIn App.
SiriusXM (internet): 979
Line: Purdue -7.5
Matt Painter, in his 16th season at the helm, brings Purdue into Lincoln with a 14-8 overall record. Within the Big Ten, the Boilermakers sit in 5th place at 9-6. The most impressive part of their resume by far is a pair of wins over now-4th-ranked Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the only upper-half conference foe that Purdue will play twice this season (as the standings sit entering Feb. 20), and they’re the only upper-half B1G team they have defeated.
Trevion Williams leads the way for Purdue with 16.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-10, 265-pound junior has nine double-doubles this season, including five 20-10 games and two 30-10 games. The only other Boilermaker scoring in double figures is Eric Hunter, Jr. at 10.0 points per game. Junior Sasha Stefanovic, who started their first nine Big Ten games but will likely come off the bench against Nebraska, is still second in minutes per conference game for PU.
Size-wise, Williams is Purdue’s only starter over 6-foot-6. However, freshman center Zach Edey checks in at 7-foot-4(!) and 285 pounds, and has scored at least ten points in each of their last three games. Edey averages 14 minutes and has played in every game this season. Nine Boilers get at least 13 minutes per game during Big Ten play, similar to Nebraska.
They rely heavily on their youth, with freshmen as four of their top seven scorers. Those four freshmen - Brandon Newman, Jaden Ivey, Mason Gillis, and Edey - have each been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week this season, the most individual winners of the award for one team in conference history. In a win over Northwestern earlier this month, Purdue freshmen combined to score 53 of their 75 points.
Offensively, Purdue averages a middling 70.6 points per game. Their biggest strength is offensive rebounding with 11.1 per game, good for fourth in the conference. In B1G play, they are dead last in 3-pointers per game with just 6.0 (compared to 7.1 over all games), and second-to-last in 3-point percentage at just 30.2%. That being said, Stefanovic and Newman both hit over 40% from deep and have almost half of the team’s made threes. The Boilermakers are also second-to-last in assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play at just 1.03. This could play into Nebraska’s hands, as they are third in B1G play with 7.4 steals per game.
Purdue’s strength lies in their defense, allowing only 67.1 points per game in Big Ten games, third-best in the conference. They’re also 4th-best in field goal percentage defense, allowing B1G opponents only 42.2% shooting. While Nebraska has certainly struggled to hit shots this season, their last three games have been an improvement, both from the field (39.7% overall, 41.6% last 3 games) and beyond the arc (31.8% overall, 37.3% last 3 games).
Purdue expected starting lineup (each of the last 6 games): Williams, Hunter, Gillis, Newman, Ivey
Nebraska expected starting lineup (each of the 8 games since Derrick Walker became eligible, excluding Teddy Allen’s suspension for Minnesota game): Allen, Banton, McGowens, Mayen, Walker
Prediction: Nebraska utilizes their long rest, takes advantage of Purdue’s lack of offensive firepower, and gets their second B1G victory of this forgettable season: Nebraska 70, Purdue 69.