CHICAGO – Purdue’s underachieving season culminated in an early Big Ten Tournament exit.
No. 7 seed Purdue (15-17) fell to No. 10 seed Nebraska (15-17), 57-55, in Thursday's first round game of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at The United Center in Chicago. A second year member of the conference, the Cornhuskers won their first tournament game.
“I just thought Nebraska was a step ahead of us most of the night,” head coach Matt Painter said. “We had some break downs and missed some free throws ... and that crushed us.”
Despite going 5-for-6 from the field in the first 4:25 of the game, the Boilers ended the first half just 12-for-28 from the field. The Huskers’ defense held Purdue’s leading scorer, junior Terone Johnson, to only four first half points and senior D.J. Byrd to just three.
“I don’t think we did a good job of moving the ball,” Painter said. “It’s a shame when you get into a close game and have a hard time running your offense.”
Freshman A.J. Hammons started the Boilers’ offense with five quick points and scored eight in the first 20 minutes, but only finished with 11 points for the game. Fellow freshman Ronnie Johnson contributed eight points in the first half while Big Ten Freshmen of the Week Rapheal Davis added five points and three rebounds.
“We came in with a game plan to keep them out of the paint,” Nebraska senior Brandon Ubel said. “We did a really good job as a team keeping them out of the lane at all cost.”
Freshman Shavon Shields went 6-for-7 from the field with 15 first half points for Nebraska.
Nebraska’s offense started off strong in the second half, stringing together a quick 9-0 run, extending its two point lead to 39-28 just three minutes in. As the Nebraska offense extended its lead, the Cornhuskers’ defense held the Boilers to only 3-for-11 from the field in the first five minutes.
“We were just digging ourselves in a hole,” Ronnie Johnson said. “We were coming down and throwing up bad shots and that’s not what (you want) when you’re trying to win.”
The momentum seemed to change in Purdue’s favor with 13:38 to play when Byrd, Hammons and Ronnie Johnson scored consecutively to put Purdue within six of the Nebraska lead.
The Boilers were able to get within one of the Huskers’ lead with 3:43 left in the game, as Byrd hit the team’s first 3-pointer of the game, cutting the lead to 48-47. Byrd hit the second and last Purdue 3-pointer with 33 seconds to play, once again putting Purdue within one of Nebraska, who led, 54-53.
Purdue couldn’t get past that mark.
As Nebraska made one of its two free throws with 13 seconds left, Purdue inbounded the ball with no timeouts, down two, 57-55. Junior Terone Johnson got into the lane and put up a jumper and missed, got his own rebound and missed again. Nebraska secured the ball as time expired.
Byrd scored pivotal baskets for the Boilers, ending the game as Purdue’s top scorer for the night with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Despite getting into foul trouble, Terone Johnson ended with nine points and six rebounds. Hammons added 11 points, and Ronnie Johnson added 10.
Nebraska, which has struggled to score and shoot efficiently from the field for most of the season, shot 47.5 percent from the field against Purdue on Thursday night. Shields ended the game with 19 points and four rebounds, and senior Ubel contributed 16 points, going 7-for-8 from the free throw line, while grabbing six rebounds.
“I thought Shavon Shields was great in the first half,” Painter said. “I thought Ubel played like senior, an experienced player, so I give them credit.”
Nebraska advances to the second round of the tournament to face No. 2 seed Ohio State at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
Purdue ends the regular season with its second losing regular season under Painter.
NEBRASKA 57, PURDUE 55
Ubel 4-11 8-11 16, Rivers 2-4 0-0 4, Shields 8-12 2-2 19, Gallegos 3-11 2-4 9, Talley 2-5 0-0 5, Tyrance 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 1-3 0-0 2, Almeida 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-47 12-17 57.
Byrd 6-14 1-1 15, Hammons 5-11 1-1 11, T. Johnson 4-14 1-4 9, R. Johnson 4-10 2-3 10, Davis 2-4 2-3 6, A. Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Hale 0-0 0-0 0, Marcius 2-3 0-2 4. Totals 23-57 7-14 55.
Halftime: Nebraska 30-28. 3-Point Goals: Nebraska 3-11 (Talley 1-1, Shields 1-1, Gallegos 1-4, Rivers 0-1, Parker 0-2, Ubel 0-2), Purdue 2-12 (Byrd 2-8, R. Johnson 0-1, Davis 0-1, T. Johnson 0-2). Fouled Out: Marcius, Rivers. Rebounds: Nebraska 31 (Ubel 8), Purdue 36 (Byrd 8). Assists: Nebraska 15 (Ubel 5), Purdue 13 (R. Johnson, T. Johnson 4). Total Fouls: Nebraska 14, Purdue 14. A: NA.