By Tommy Rezac
The Nebraska men’s basketball team (11-5, 2-1 big Ten) is back on the road this weekend as they get set to take on No. 13 Purdue (14-2, 3-0 Big Ten0 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN on Saturday.
Tip-off is set for 1:15 p.m. CT. Pregame coverage will start at 12:05 with all of the action being carried on KLIN. The game will also be televised on BTN.
Nebraska, winners of their last four games in a row, are coming off of a strong 70-55 win at Northwestern on Tuesday night. Junior guard Glynn Watson led the Huskers with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Watson has been excellent in conference play so far, averaging 18 points, six rebounds and 3.3 assists against conference foes.
“I was proud of him,” head coach Tim Miles said Friday. “Glynn, I think, just decided, ‘Hey, I’m going to get going here.’ We tried to do some things for him, but didn’t really have to, because he got himself going. That was huge for us. We need Glynn.”
Nebraska also blocked 14 shots on Tuesday, which is the most ever in a conference game. They also held Northwestern to just 29 percent shooting as a team.
“I think it’s just kind of a testament to how talented our team is,” senior center Duby Okeke said, who finished Tuesday’s game with three blocks. “We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of things. You know, James (Palmer) will get a (block). Surprisingly, Glynn, which is crazy. (Isaac Copeland), is like 6-foot-9, and he can alter shots and stuff. (Isaiah) Roby, he can do everything. Jordy (Tshimanga) is pretty big. Tanner (Borchardt) uses his body real well. And me, it’s just what I do.”
Roby currently leads the Huskers with 27 blocks, Copeland is second with 20, while Okeke is 3rd with 19.
Nebraska and Purdue are tied for 3rd in the Big Ten with 100 blocked shots as a team.
Purdue comes in, having won their last ten games in a row, most recently dominating Rutgers at home on Wednesday night 82-51. They also have impressive wins this season at Marquette, at Maryland, vs. No. 2 Arizona at a neutral site and home wins over No. 17 Louisville and Butler.
They’re 10-0 thus far at home.
“(Mackey Arena) is just a great place to play,” Watson said. “I just remember from (2015-16) it was a loud crowd and it was a good game. It’s going to be tough to win. I just watched them on TV. I just know it’s a tough place to win at, but it can be done. Just have to come ready to play. If we come ready to play, I have no doubt we will win. Just got to execute our game plan and play hard.”
Purdue features a prolific offense that averages 86.9 points per game (2nd Big Ten, 16th NCAA) and is shooting 50.6 percent from the field (2nd Big Ten, 18th NCAA).
They’re led in scoring by sophomore guard Carsen Edwards, who averages 17.4 points per game (4th Big Ten).
Senior center Isaac Haas, who’s a defensive force at 7-foot-2 and 290 pounds, averages 14.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and is second on the team with 18 blocks. He also shoots a team-best 63.9 percent from the field.
Haas led Purdue on Wednesday against Rutgers with a team-high 14 points and six rebounds.
“Not only is Purdue great inside with Isaac Haas and even Matt Haarms, with what he brings with shot blocking and his presence and activity,” Miles said, “they’re a great three-point shooting team, they’re a great ball handling team and they defend really, really well.”
Redshirt freshman forward Matt Haarms, a native of Amsterdam and graduate of Sunrise Christian Academy prep school in Wichita, KS, leads the team with 49 blocks. He’s the tallest player on their roster at 7-foot-3.
Purdue also returns senior forward Vincent Edwards, who averages 13.6 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds per contest (4th Big Ten). Senior guard Dakota Mathias averages 13.4 points a team-best 4.8 assists (t-4th Big Ten).
The Huskers will be looking for their first-ever win at Mackey Arena and second-straight win over Purdue.
Nebraska posted an 83-80 win over the Boilermakers in Lincoln on Jan. 29, 2017.
“We’ve looked at that game plan,” Watson said. “We’re going to basically stick to the same game plan we did last year. We changed a couple things, because they lost (Caleb Swanigan), but they still have a lot of good pieces on their team. So, we’re going to try and do everything we can.”
Nebraska’s key to beating Purdue last year was outscoring them in the paint, and making the Boilermakers try and beat them from the three-point line.
In that game, Purdue was quite good from three, making 14-of-24 from long distance, but Nebraska outscored them in the paint 32-20.
“I think you have to look at stopping the inside game,” Miles said. “It’s such a high percentage play for them. The good news is, I have three post players I feel very comfortable playing and they have 15 fouls (five fouls each).”
Purdue is 13-5 all-time against the Big Red, including a 7-3 mark as conference opponents.
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him @Tommy_KLIN.