LINCOLN, Neb. – There were only 13 minutes left in Purdue's game with Nebraska on Saturday night, and the Boilermakers were still struggling to find their way.
But just like that, the switch flipped. And the lights came out. The Boilers got hot from long range and went on a 21-4 run that helped blow the game open, with Purdue cruising to the finish line with a 75-58 win. The Boilers made 10 three-pointers, their highest total since the Jan. 14 win at Indiana when they knocked down 11 threes.
Jaden Ivey led the Boilers with 15 points, and Sasha Stefanovic finally found his stroke for the first time since missing three games with COVID-19. He made four three-pointers and finished with 14 points. Stefanovic made consecutive three-pointers during the stretch and Ivey capped it with a dunk.
“When Sasha hits shots for us, he brings a lot of energy to the team,” said Ivey, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half. “The fight that he brought today after struggling for a couple of games shows what type of player that he is. Seeing those shots go in, I’m so happy for him.”
With the win, Purdue is now 15-8 overall and 10-6 in Big Ten, good for fifth in the league. They remain a half-game behind Iowa for the coveted fourth spot in the league, which gets a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa is playing at Penn State on Sunday.
Purdue's 17-point margin was its largest in a Big Ten road win since an 87-64 win over Iowa on Jan. 20, 2018.
“We have a lot of good shooters on this team,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “The more we keep working and the more we keep working on our execution, we’ll make more threes and we’ll continue to take the good ones.”
Stefanovic has struggled in his first three games back, going 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-8 from three. So it felt good to finally break out in a hurry.
“I haven't made a shot in a month, so to see a shot go in, it felt kind of good,” said Stefanovic. “I was able to get more shots tonight and I was able to cash in on some of them. I think I had some pretty good open clean looks. The ones I missed I felt like I should’ve made, to be honest. I had good looks on those as well.”
This was the eight game in 14 days for the Cornhuskers (5-15, 1-12 in the Big Ten), who are trying to make up the five league games they missed because of a COVID outbreak inside their program. The missed a game at Purdue on Jan. 5, but that game has not been rescheduled yet.
Purdue plays at Penn State on Friday.