October 28, 2014

A.J. Hammons and Issac Haas give Purdue two giants in the paint, but Dakota Mathias would like to give the team a balanced attack.

Mathias tries to build on the best performance of his career as the No. 15 Boilermakers look to snap a three-game road losing streak Tuesday night against Nebraska.

Hammons leads Purdue with 14.7 points per game and the 7-foot senior center is second in the Big Ten with 2.6 blocks. The 7-foot-2 Haas is averaging 10.0 points as a sophomore, giving Purdue (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten) a major one-two punch in the paint.

Mathias is trying to provide an option on the perimeter. The guard certainly did that Saturday, matching his career high with 17 points while making 7 of 10 from the floor and 3 of 6 from 3-point range in an 83-79 win over then-No. 10 Maryland.

Hammons had team highs of 19 points and seven boards.

"I made shots, and that helped open things up for A.J.," said Mathias, who averages 5.2 points. "Thus far, this was my No. 1 performance of my career. We played so well, and then we had a rough stretch. Had we lost this one, it would have been devastating."

Hammons had the best performance of his career in an 89-74 win over Nebraska (14-15, 6-10) on Jan. 30. He finished with a personal-best 32 points with 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocks, connecting on 14 of 17 from the field.

Haas chipped in with 13 points in 12 minutes, while the Boilermakers had a 38-32 scoring edge in the paint and 38-22 on the boards.

Purdue, though, has lost five of eight on the road in conference play, including three straight. The team fell 76-57 in its most recent visit to Lincoln on Feb. 23, 2014, while Hammons was limited to six points.

The Cornhuskers have dropped seven of their last nine games and three straight for the third time this season.

Shavon Shields returned from a four-game absence due to injury and scored 25 points Thursday, but he missed a jumper at the buzzer in a 56-55 loss at Penn State.

"Coming back, my job with Benny (Parker) was like we just needed to lead; lead by example, be verbal, do the right thing," Shields said. "I think we both did a good job with that. We didn't stop fighting."

Shields had 16 points and Parker contributed seven with five assists against Purdue earlier this season. Shields has 18 points in each of his two home matchups with the Boilermakers, adding 10 rebounds and three steals in the latest.

Purdue is aiming for a top-four seed and a double bye into the quarterfinals of next week's conference tournament. The Boilermakers are among six teams separated by one game in the race for the remaining three spots.

They conclude the regular season at home against Wisconsin on Sunday, while Nebraska faces Northwestern in a meeting that could determine what team finishes 10th and gets the last first-round bye.

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