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Huskers pass first road test of 2018, can they pass another?

Nebraska travels to West Lafayette to face a red hot Purdue team.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After starting off the 2018 year with a bang in Illinois, the Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to the state right next to it, Indiana, to face the Purdue Boilermakers.

A win against Northwestern was one Nebraska really needed and they succeeded in doing so. For the first half of the game, a win looked grim for the Huskers, managing to only shoot 28.6 percent from the field (8-of-28) and giving away seven turnovers. People who didn’t watch the game must be wondering how Nebraska managed to only trail 30-25 heading into halftime. That’s because Northwestern only shot 30.8 percent (12-of-39).

“It was a Jekyll-Hyde that first half,” said head coach Tim Miles during his post-game interview with Huskers Sport Network.

Whatever Miles told his team during the break, it didn’t make an impact until eight minutes to go in the game. Nebraska staggered on the offensive side of the ball until an And-1 three from Anton Gill, giving the Huskers a four point lead around the five-minute mark.

Without Bryant McIntosh (knee), Northwestern’s starting point guard and senior leader, the Wildcats struggled to find a consistent playmaker to respond to Nebraska’s momentum. After Gill’s And-1 three, Nebraska went on a 24-13 run to close out the game, winning 70-55.

While Nebraska is 2-1 in conference play and tied for second in the Big Ten, that could be short-lived as they face the Purdue Boilermakers, who have won their past ten games, including wins against Arizona and Louisville.

Purdue cleaned up Wednesday night, winning 82-51 at home against Rutgers behind the force of Isaac Haas, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Carson Edwards also played well, scoring 12 points, dishing out four assists, and grabbing five rebounds.

The Cornhuskers and Boilermakers only met once last year, resulting in a Nebraska upset at home, barely winning by a score of 83-80. Dakota Mathias had a shot to tie it at the end, but ultimately missed and watched as the Husker fans stormed the court.

What may seem shocking to Nebraska fans about that game, is that Jack McVeigh, a junior sharpshooter from Australia, had 21 points and played 32 minutes. Jack McVeigh has been a non-factor this year, failing to play in Nebraska’s last two conference games against Northwestern and Minnesota.

McVeigh started for Nebraska at the beginning of the 2016-’17 season, but with the additions of James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland, his presence isn’t needed as much as a taller body. With Gill and freshman Thomas Allen shooting the three ball as well as they have been, McVeigh also isn’t needed for his specialty, knocking down shots from behind the arc.

For this year’s game, Nebraska will most likely need a boost from the bench to be able to pull of the upset on Saturday. On Tuesday night, that boost came from Gill and junior walk-on Tanner Borchardt, who filled in for foul-troubled Jordy Tshimanga and Isaiah Roby.

Of course Nebraska will also need their starting lineup to keep on producing, particularly Glynn Watson Jr., along with Palmer and Copeland. Watson broke out of his slump near his hometown, Bellwood, Illinois, against Northwestern last Tuesday night. Watson scored nineteen points and managed to register six assists and rebounds.

Palmer and Copeland also played well, combining for 31 points and 13 rebounds, which mostly came in the second half. What Copeland told Huskers Sports Network after the game might give Nebraska the swagger and confidence they need to knock off No. 13 Purdue tomorrow.

“We found some attitude in our team, we were out there talking back and forth, talking to each other and talking to the other team. You’ve got to have some grit, some anger with you to win on the road in the Big Ten.”

Nebraska plays Purdue at 2:45PM ET Saturday on BTN. If Nebraska wants to win this game, they’re going to need help all throughout their roster.