LINCOLN, Neb. – The COVID-19 virus has completely blown up Nebraska’s basketball season, but they are now playing again and on Saturday it will be Purdue’s turn to give them a shot.
Nebraska had canceled or postponed six games earlier this season due to COVID issues in the schedule, and the inability to practice or play made it difficult for a roster that was completely rebuilt in the off-season.
They are now healthy and have tried to make up for all those lost conference games. This will be their eighth game in 14 days, an intense schedule by Big Ten standards. In comparison, Purdue has played three games in that window so far.
Here’s everything you need to know about Purdue’s game against Michigan State on Tuesday night:
- WHO: Purdue Boilermakers (8-14, 9-6 in the Big Ten) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-14, 1-11 in the Big Ten)
- When: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, February 20
- True: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Neb.
- Last rule: Purdue is 7 points preferred starting Saturday at 8am, according to the DraftKings.com website.
- Poll Rankings: Purdue dropped out of both the Associated Press and Coaches top-25 polls this week after losing in Minnesota. They would rank No. 33 in the AP poll and No. 31 in the Coaches poll this week. Nebraska is not ranked.
- Kenpom.com Ranking: Purdue rose to No. 21 in the Kenpom.com rankings after beating Michigan State on Tuesday. Nebraska is at number 117.
- Last timeout: Purdue beat Michigan State 75-65 on Tuesday, thanks to 28 points from Trevion Williams. Nebraska has been busy coming up with many games. This is their fourth game this week, and most recently they lost to Maryland 79-71 after playing on back-to-back nights.
- Series history: Purdue leads the overall streak, 16-6.
- Last meeting: Nebraska actually won the last meeting on December 15, 2020, winning 70-56 at Lincoln. They had a game scheduled for January 5 in West Lafayette, but it was postponed due to COVID issues within the Nebraska program and has yet to be rescheduled.
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Jess Settles (color commentary).
- Radio: Purdue Radio Network
- Announcers: Rob Blackmon and Bobby Riddell
Here are three things to watch out for on Saturday against Nebraska:
1. Start by making a pair of threes
Matt Painter says it all the time that Purdue has good perimeter shooters, they just don’t take pictures. That has been very true lately, and it needs to change. Against Michigan State, Purdue hit 3-for-12 from deep, just 25 percent. Before that, they were 2-for-17 (11.7 percent) in the loss at Minnesota.
Despite its record of 1-11 in the league, Nebraska actually tops the Big Ten in defending the three, with only 31.9 percent of the depth. They quickly shut down on shooters so this can be an ongoing problem. Which brings us to …
2. Should we start worrying about Sasha Stefanovic?
Junior guard Sasha Stefanovic just isn’t the same since he missed three games after a positive test on COVID-19. He’s often said he’s 100 percent, but it hasn’t translated into results on the floor.
The junior guard at Crown Point, Ind., Has played three games since returning from the virus, and has yet to take another shot from the field. In games against Northwestern, Minnesota and Michigan State, he is a combination of 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-7 from the three-point series. He didn’t score at all in the last two games and had only four free throws against Northwestern. Purdue needs him at its best to be successful. Maybe this is the game where things start to click.
3. Don’t fall for this trap game
Many Purdue fans looked at the soft back of the Boilermakers’ schedule, where all 10 games – pending Nebraska’s reshuffle – were against teams behind them in the standings. They wanted to win them all and compete for the Big Ten title.
But it didn’t turn out that way, with the Boilers losing games in Minnesota and Maryland where they preferred. Both times, Purdue was in the lead late and let them slip in the last few minutes. Be wary Saturday, because Nebraska is demolishing. They took Illinois to overtime and beat Penn State. And let’s not forget that Purdue came to Lincoln last year and got blown up. The Boilers have to be at their best on Saturday.
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