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Purdue University

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Purdue
vs. Nebraska
When: 6:30 p.m. today
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1380 AM, 92.7 FM

Down to final four, Boilers feeling heat

– Purdue has four games remaining in the regular season.

Two are at home. Two are on the road.

It’s imperative the Boilermakers (17-10, 7-7 Big Ten) win at Mackey Arena as they make a push for a sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. The first home game will be tonight against Nebraska (12-13, 4-10).

This is the first time the teams have played since the 1979-80 season.

“It is different, but the one thing that’s constant is who we’ve both played against in conference,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said during the Big Ten teleconference Monday. “Now we can kind of go look to see how certain teams in our league played them and they can do the same thing against us.”

The Cornhuskers snapped a four-game losing streak with an 80-57 victory Saturday over Illinois.

Bo Spencer is averaging 15.5 points and 3.4 assists for Nebraska after scoring 27 points against the Illini. He had 23 points in Jan. 18 upset win against Indiana.

“They’re playing good basketball right now,” Painter said. “They were great the other night (against Illinois). We’re going to have our hands full.”

The Boilermakers saw their two-game winning streak end Sunday, falling to Michigan State 76-62. Purdue started the second half 1 of 23 from the floor.

“We have to do a better job offensively, everybody struggles at some point in games,” Painter said. “We’ve got to make sure we still rebound, carry out our assignment and defend while we’re struggling offensively.”

The offense will receive a boost with the return of D.J. Byrd. The guard was suspended for the Michigan State game for violation of team rules. He is averaging 12.2 points in Big Ten games and has reached double figures in his last five games.

“I think we’re going to put a better offensive team on the court against Nebraska than we did against Michigan State, getting Byrd back,” Painter said. “It gives us another skill guy to stretch things out. I think that helps us.

“We’re going to have some lulls, that’s proven with this group. And when we do, that’s OK. The score doesn’t have to change, we can stop them, get long rebounds and kind of grind it at that time. And then hope our offense comes around. We’ve proven that we can score the ball against quality teams in this league. Now we have to prove that we can stop those teams on the defensive end.”

lpope@jg.net

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