WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Third-ranked Purdue relied on an old-school combination Friday night. Fletcher Loyer and Zach Edey made it work as perfectly now as it ever has for the Boilermakers.
Loyer scored a season-high 27 points, Edey added 12 points and 13 rebounds and the Boilermakers routed Nebraska 73-55 to become the 11th Division I school with 1,900 victories.
“Purdue’s a special palace,” Boilermakers coach and former player Matt Painter said. “They (the fans) understand if you’re playing hard and playing together. They might not all understand it, but collectively they do and that’s the one thing you’ve got to be able to do. You’ve got to play the right way and you’ve got to play hard.”
Few have been more successful at making their points than Painter, who also joined Bob Knight, Gene Keady, Tom Izzo and Lou Henson as the only Big Ten coaches to win 400 games at one school with the victory. Painter played for Keady before succeeding him in 2005.
And Painter’s style hasn’t changed much over the years, as was the case again Friday when Purdue improved to 16-1 for the first time since 1993-94. Loyer, a freshman, also had a season-best six 3-pointers, while Edey added 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double for the Big Ten-leading Boilermakers (5-1).
Derrick Walker had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead the Cornhuskers (9-9, 2-5), who fell to 0-9 at Mackey Arena. Keisei Tominaga had 16 points for Nebraska, which played without two injured starters — guard Sam Griesel (hip) and forward Juwan Gary (left shoulder).
“Obivously we were very short-handed especially on the glass,” Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said. “But this game had nothing to do with that. What did us in was the start to both halves and give credit to Purdue for that.”
Loyer got it started with a quick flurry, four 3s in less than eight minutes, helped the Boilermakers jump to a 15-4 lead. Nebraska never fully recovered.
But when the Cornhuskers finally closed the deficit to 29-24 late in the first half, Purdue responded by scoring the final six points of the first half and the first 11 of the second half to make it 46-24. Nebraska never got close again.
“It’s huge,” Purdue forward Mason Gillis said after scoring 10 points. “Every time he (Loyer) shoots it, we think it’s going in. So we want him taking those open shots, being creative.”
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are making progress under Hoiberg. But after pushing Purdue into overtime on its home court in December, losing two starters Friday made it virtually impossible to replicate on the road against a motivated foe.
Purdue: Painter’s team has relied largely on its power game, but the early 3s gave the Boilermakers a different look — and the versatility they’ll need to make a deep postseason run. This one couldn’t have come at a better time, either, after a brutal sequence that included a home loss to Rutgers, a narrow win at No. 24 Ohio State and a slide from No. 1 to No. 3.
Figuring out this season’s best team has been a challenge all season. But the one-loss Boilermakers will remain in that discussion as long as they continue winning this way. In fact, with a little help this weekend, the Boilermakers could reclaim the top spot Monday.
HE SAID IT
“He’s one of the best in the business and he does such a phenomenal job recruiting to his system. And he learned from a great one, Gene Keady,” Hoiberg said of Painter’s milestone. “I’m happy for him, not happy he got his 400th against me, but I’m happy for him.”
Nebraska: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.
Purdue: Visits Michigan State on Monday.