CHICAGO – Purdue's run in the Big Ten tournament ended much earlier than anyone expected, especially after the team won three out of its last five regular-season games.
The No. 7 seed Boilermakers fell 57-55 to No. 10 seed Nebraska in the opening round at the United Center on Thursday night.
Purdue (15-17) did overcome an 11-point deficit, 39-28, with 17:17 to play, but Boilermakers guard Terone Johnson's two shots in the final four seconds just wouldn't fall to send the game into overtime.
"We battled back and got it to two possessions (45-39 with 11:57 to play)," coach Matt Painter said. "And then we went about four-straight possessions in the middle of the second half where we took two horrendous shots (one by D.J. Byrd and the other by Ronnie Johnson) and had two turnovers (one by Anthony Johnson and one by A.J. Hammons). That was a key time of the game, even though we got back into the game and had a chance to win the basketball game, those four possessions in a row really hurt us. And then we had some breakdowns and missed some free throws. And then had the one rebound on a missed free throw that everybody seemed to box their man out and not go get the basketball. And that crushed it."
Byrd cut Nebraska's lead to one point three times in the final four-plus minutes.
The senior sank his and Purdue's first three-pointer of the game with 4:14 to play to cut Nebraska's lead to 48-47. He then sank another three-pointer with 39.1 seconds left to pull Purdue within 54-53 of Nebraska, and his putback with 13.1 seconds left trimmed the Cornhuskers' lead down to 56-55.
But Purdue just couldn't get the lead or tie the game, especially after the Boilermakers gave up nine straight points to start the second half that allowed the Cornhuskers to push their lead from 30-28 to 39-28.
"I thought we were digging ourselves in a hole pretty bad," Ronnie Johnson said. "They were scoring and then we were throwing up bad shots. So that's not what you want when you're trying to win."
Carrying the Cornhuskers
Purdue held Nebraska's leading scorers Dylan Talley, who averages 14.2 points, and Ray Gallegos, who averages 12.8 points, to 5 and 9 points.
But Shavon Shields, a freshman who averages 9.5 points, and Brandon Ubel, who missed Purdue's 65-56 win Jan. 15 at Nebraska because of an injury, made up for the Cornhuskers' top scorers' off night.
Shields scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first half.
"Shields really came to play tonight, and he was one guy that coach talked about before the game who could get going. We let him get going," Terone Johnson said. "That's why we ended up in the spot we were at the end of the game."
Ubel had 16 points and eight rebounds.
"They just have more spacing," Rapheal Davis said of facing Purdue with Ubel. "He can drive. He can shoot. He really opened up a lot of things for them. We couldn't pack it in, knowing we had to respect his jump shot. It was a whole different team today."
- D.J. Byrd scored 15 points to lead Purdue. The senior connected on the Boilermakers' only three-pointers of the game, making two from behind the arc in the second half.
- Byrd also tied a career-high with two blocks, and he had a season-high eight rebounds
- A.J. Hammons scored 11 points for Purdue, and Ronnie Johnson scored 10.
- Purdue outrebounded Nebraska 36-31, but with the loss the Boilers fell to 15-6 this season and 118-24 under Painter when outrebounding an opponent.
- Purdue went 0-4 on netural courts this season.
The Boilermakers' only chance to make the NCAA tournament ended with their elimination from the race for the automatic bid by winning the Big Ten tournament.
Purdue likely will not be selected to play in the NIT, but the Boilermakers could end up in either the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
Byrd said he hopes the team gets to keep playing.
"The way we played the past couple weeks, Michigan and Minnesota, and we had some good games and played hard," Byrd said. "And we came up short in some big games too. So for me, I always want to play some more games, but it would be great if we could."