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January 11, 2014
Someone's going to get their first Big Ten win Sunday at noon in Mackey Arena, when 0-3 Nebraska visits 0-2 Purdue.
"This is a definitely a must-win for us," Boilermaker point guard Ronnie Johnson said.
Hard to dispute.
About Purdue:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats
Projected starters (last game): C - A.J. Hammons; F - Basil Smotherman; F- Rapheal Davis; G - Ronnie Johnson; G - Terone Johnson
About Nebraska:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats
Broadcast info:: Radio: Purdue Sports Network | TV: BTN | LIVE: Join GoldandBlack.com tonight for our 30-minute pre-game 'Game Day Live' chat session, then our Twitter account, @GoldandBlackcom, for in-game updates.
Nebraska's lost its first three conference games but just barely missed against Michigan in Lincoln this week, missing a pair of potential game-winners in the final seconds in a 71-70 loss to a Wolverine team that's short-handed but getting by in close games nonetheless.
Sophomore forward Terran Petteway has been on a tear for the 'Huskers.
The Texas Tech transfer has led Nebraska in scoring in each of the past five games and scored 15 or more points each outing during that span, including 27 against The Citadel, 22 at Cincinnati and 20 at Iowa in back-to-back-to-back games.
Nebraska (8-7) averages less than 70 points per game and doesn't have much of an interior scoring presence, nor has it been particularly prolific from three-point range. Its 87 made threes this season match Indiana's Big Ten-low total, though Ray Gallegos shoots 40 percent and Petteway 39.
They do have weapons, though, who can slash and play from mid-range, including Petteway (17.2 points per game) and 6-7 forward Shavon Shields the guy Purdue couldn't seem to match up with in its loss to Nebraska in last spring's Big Ten Tournament, where the then-freshman made 8-of-12 shots and scored a game-high 19. Shields is averaging 11.3 points this season, but has struggled badly lately. Coach Tim Miles says he's been battling a knee problem.
On defense, Nebraska is allowing 68.1 points for the season with opponents shooting a Big Ten-high 44.7 percent from the field.
Viewers beware: Few major programs nationally have fouled more this season than Purdue (312) and Nebraska (325), each of them heavily emphasizing discipline on the practice floor of late.
Purdue had a week off after its 82-79 loss at Minnesota last Sunday.
It was no vacation.
Sophomore Rapheal Davis said their first practice back was such that Matt Painter "wasn't playing around." Bryson Scott compared its intensity to the first practices back in the fall.
A.J. Hammons put it like this: "Coach just kind of snapped off. I'll leave it at that."
Of note: In the summer, after a vacancy came open on his staff, Painter expressed interest in hiring Nebraska assistant coach Chris Harriman, who remained with the Cornhuskers. Painter then hired former Boilermaker Brandon Brantley.
Prediction: "Must-win" storylines are often overblown, but if Purdue wants to get where it wants to be in March, it may have to have this one. As last year's Big Ten Tournament and Nebraska's near-win over Michigan showed, though, it probably will be no picnic. Purdue 71, Nebraska 62
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