Andre Almeida scored more points in Wednesday’s matchup against Purdue than he had in Nebraska’s last three games combined. Jordan Tyrance scored more points than he had all season.
But the two Husker players’ efforts came all for none as the Boilermakers (9-8 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) defeated Nebraska (9-9, 0-5) 65-56 in front of 8,190 fans in attendance at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Freshman Shavon Shields finished with a team-high and career-best 18 points and eight rebounds, while Tyrance finished with a career-high 10 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Ray Gallegos and Almeida also finished with nine and eight points respectively.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said there aren’t many positives he can make out of the team’s fifth consecutive conference loss.
“Well it certainly was a step back, and it was disappointing,” Miles said. “It’s about mentality. Every possession has to matter. Every game opportunity has to matter. Tonight, I don’t think we can show evidence that it did matter until it was a 20-point deficit.”
The Huskers shot 33.3 percent from the floor in Wednesday’s contest, while allowing its opponent to shoot 40 percent from three-point land.
The Nebraska squad was derailed by rebounds the entire matchup.
Although Miles’ bunch had its share of offensive boards – totaling five in the first half, its counterparts grabbed six themselves, including a total of 25 rebounds heading into the locker room at halftime.
If there was one statistic Nebraska would need to pay attention to, it was rebounding.
Going into its matchup in Lincoln, the Boilermakers held an 8-3 season record when they out-rebound their opponents. That trend held true in its trip to the Huskers’ home court.
All five of Purdue’s starters tallied at least five rebounds, including freshman center AJ Hammons who finished with a team-high eight. The away team finished with 47 boards compared to Nebraska’s 36.
Purdue’s rebounding and persistent shooting aided them to leap out to its largest lead after a 3-pointer by Terone Johnson made it 41-21 to steam roll into the second half with a 20-point advantage.
But the Huskers didn’t go down without a fight.
Nebraska found itself down as little as six when Almeida’s fourth field goal of the night made it 46-40.
The intense, physical play by the defense assisted in the Huskers comeback midway through the second half, according to Miles.
“We went small and just got really aggressive with their screen and roll and the double downs into the post,” he said. “I thought that gave us real life; we hadn’t much life and I feel like that finally gave us a little bit of fire.”
Echoes of boos began trickling through the NU student section as a pair of questionable fouls were uncalled by the officiating crew. But those scoffs quickly turned into cheers after a layup by senior guard Dylan Talley made it 51-46 Purdue.
However, it seemed like anytime Nebraska would go on a run, Purdue senior guard D.J. Byrd was there to break up any Husker momentum.
Like he had two times before, Byrd would go on to drain his third and fourth 3-pointers to shut down any chance of a Husker comeback.
“He’s been up and down with his shooting,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He hasn’t really made a lot of three’s in the second half of games on the road. It was good to see him bounce back and make shots.”
Tyrance went on to make his fourth field goal with 26 seconds left of play to finish with a career-high 10 points, but it was two points too late.
Although Miles gave his two leading scorers – Tyrance and Shields – praise after the game, he realizes his team can’t rely on the two to win games.
“When a walk-on is leading you and a true-freshman’s leading you, you got a problem on your hands,” Miles said. “God bless those guys because they were terrific. But at the same time, we need more than that.”
The Huskers will look to change its unlucky fortune when they travel to University Park, Penn., Saturday to face 8-9 Penn State.