Husker hoops’ losing streak reaches seven after Purdue pulls away in second half

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Tim Miles stood on the sideline and waited.

He wanted a whistle. Any whistle. Tanner Borchardt’s layin kept Nebraska close at 39-35 with less than 16 minutes left in the second half. At the next stoppage of play, Miles would get a media timeout to regroup.

Purdue’s Ryan Cline hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to seven. Miles kept his arms folded. Nojel Eastern made a layin with 15:10 left, and Miles said nothing. Then Grady Eifert drilled a long 3-pointer. Miles finally relented, with 14:35 left.

The damage: A 14-2 Purdue run and a 47-35 lead. And that would be the difference in Nebraska’s seventh straight loss, this one 81-62 to No. 15 Purdue. Nebraska had been close. Played tough with Purdue even after that run. But Nebraska never gained back the ground lost in those two fateful minutes.

“I think I waited at least two possessions too long to burn a timeout,” Miles said postgame. “I should’ve known better.”

Nebraska played as well as it has in 2019 on Saturday night. The Huskers made 10 3-pointers, sophomore Thomas Allen tied a career high with 18 points and the bench scored a season-high 23 points.

But four Boilermakers scored in double digits, including Carsen Edwards, who had 27. Purdue shot 59 percent from the floor in the second half and made 8 of 20 3-pointers.

The score was tied at 33 after an Isaiah Roby dunk early in the second. But Purdue outscored NU 48-29 the rest of the way for its eighth straight win.

Nebraska’s now lost seven in a row, and nine of its last 11. After an 11-2 start to the season, the Huskers are 13-11, and 3-10 in conference play.

“I think there’s a lot of positive teaching points we can take from it,” Miles said on the radio postgame. “They probably won’t see it until we see it on tape. I think they feel bad about the score and all that fun stuff, but I think until we see the tape and they can see the real positive things we did.”

In the first 20 minutes, the Huskers looked nothing like the Huskers of the past month. They forced turnovers, knocked down open shots and bothered Purdue’s playmakers defensively. Nebraska led 25-21 after 15 minutes of play. Combined, Isaiah Roby and Glynn Watson scored just three points and missed all six shot attempts in the first half. And Nebraska didn’t score a field goal in the final 5:23.

Yet, Nebraska trailed by just two, 33-31, at the break.

“I thought our purpose was much better tonight,” Miles said. “I thought our guys had a different mental approach. And I thought that showed.”

But after the half, Purdue’s onslaught began.

The Boilermakers made 6 of their first 9 shots, including five in a row, and outscored Nebraska 14-2 in the first five minutes. Meanwhile, Nebraska cooled off, missing 12 of 14 shots in the final five minutes of the first half and its first five of the second.

Three straight 3-pointers from Allen kept Nebraska above water. He scored 12 straight at one point. But Purdue made 9 of 10 shots in the same stretch.

And beyond Allen, Nebraska found no consistency from its stars. James Palmer finished with 17 points on 17 shots. Roby scored 10 points with just three rebounds. Watson struggled again, with four points on 1-for-5 shooting.

“Tom Allen was terrific tonight and that was great,” Miles said. “We need all those guys.”

The 19-point loss, in a weird way, was Nebraska’s most encouraging of its seven straight defeats. That’s a mark of where this season has fallen, but a move in the right direction, Miles said.

“No doubt this was a positive step if you just measure those things that you can control with the attitude and effort and all those things,” Miles said. “I thought we did some good things tonight. Looking forward to making Pinnacle Bank Arena a more enjoyable place to be.”