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Vincent Edwards carries Purdue to hot start, win over Nebraska

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In this random 2:15 p.m. tip-off on a sleepy and freezing-cold post-holiday break Saturday afternoon, Vincent Edwards wanted to make sure his red-hot team didn’t play like the conditions.

“I wanted to take it upon myself to come out with energy,” he said, “because in the past when we’ve had early games, we haven’t been ready to play.”

He delivered, as the senior forward scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, with six assists, a block and not a single turnover, in No. 13 Purdue’s 11th-straight win, 74-62 over Nebraska.

The Boilermakers are now 4-0 in the Big Ten, thanks to a blistering start to Saturday afternoon’s game, paced by Edwards.

He made a three 47 seconds into the game, scored on a break-away a few minutes later, then leveraged some post-up opportunities for a few more scores.

It took Purdue just a little more than nine minutes to hold a 15-point lead.

“I think when he plays that hard, he becomes a catalyst in that area,” Coach Matt Painter said of Edwards. “He’s going to rebound better when he plays that hard, he’s going to score better, he’s going to do everything better when he plays at that kind of magic level and I thought he was that way in the first half.”

Isaac Haas, too.

In the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game alone, he scored a bucket, grabbed an offensive rebound, blocked a shot and handed out assists on two three-pointers.

Then, he was lost to foul trouble.

He finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and six rebounds, doing so in just 18 minutes.

“I think the first half is different with Isaac Haas in the game,” Painter said, suggesting the Boilermakers’ 10-point halftime lead was modest compared to what it could have been.

The double-digit halftime lead, though, was key as Purdue went cold to start the second half. The Boilermakers started 1-for-8 and before long, lost Haas to his third foul.

But, Nebraska came out just as cold, It started 1-for-10, with a number of turnovers mixed in.

The 41-31 halftime score didn’t change until nearly three minutes had passed in the second half.

Though they were really struggling to score — both teams were — the Cornhuskers were able to put a modest scare into the sold-out Mackey Arena crowd, getting within nine at 9:11. But a few minutes later, Nojel Eastern pushed the lead back into double figures for good, making a shot off the glass for and and-one, though the free throw missed. A Haas three-point play and consecutive threes from Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson made for a 9-2 run that essentially put Nebraska away. Purdue led by 18 with less than three minutes to play.

The game was over by 5 p.m.

“I like (early starts),” Haas said, ‘cause I think the other team’s not ready to play. I like getting up early, even though it sucks when you have to get up early, and to be honest when you come in with that focus that you want to work and crush those guys in front of you, those guys kind of fall back on their heels and you get a great start. We did that today.”

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