A career night from freshman Shavon Shields and a school record for fewest turnovers weren't enough to complete a valiant comeback attempt for the Nebraska basketball team on Wednesday, as the Huskers fell to Purdue 65-56 at the Devaney Center.
Nebraska trailed by 20 at 43-23 with 16:21 left after Purdue hit five of its first six second-half shots. But the Huskers rallied, using a 17-3 run to cut the lead 46-40 with 9:06 remaining. NU trimmed the lead to five with 6:03 to play, but D.J. Byrd knocked down two of his four second-half 3-pointers over the next minute and a half to help Purdue lead by at least seven the remainder of the game.
The comeback effort was fueled by Shields and sophomore Jordan Tyrance. Shields scored a career-high 18 points and added a game-high-tying eight rebounds, one shy of his career high. Tyrance added 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Entering the night, Tyrance was 0-for-3 from the field in his career and had totaled one career point and five career rebounds.
Ray Gallegos added nine points for Nebraska, which committed only two turnovers, the fewest in school history. Previously, the Husker record was three turnovers on three different occasions. With the loss, Nebraska fell to 9-9 on the season and 0-5 in Big Ten Conference play.
Purdue improved to 9-8 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play on the strength of four players in double figures, led by Terone Johnson's 18 points. A.J Hammons finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while D.J. Byrd and Ronnie Johnson added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Huskers, who shot just 33 percent on the night, dug too much of an early hole, shooting just 25.8 percent in the first half, as the Boilermakers built a 28-19 halftime lead.
Purdue took control midway through the half, using an 8-0 run over five minutes to build a 16-8 advantage. Nebraska, behind the play of Shields and Tyrance, pulled to within 20-15 after a Tyrance layup with 7:04 left in the half, but could not sustain. The Boilermakers scored eight of the next nine points to extend the margin to 28-16 after a Travis Carroll basket before Shields ended a field goal drought of nearly six minutes to make it a nine-point game.
In the second half, the Boilermakers opened the half with a 13-2 spurt in building a 20-point lead after a three-point play from Rapheal Davis with 16:44 left. The Huskers started attacking the paint and extending their defense to claw back into the game. Shields had six points in a 12-1 surge that pulled Nebraska within 44-35 after a pair of Gallegos free throws.
The Huskers kept chipping away, getting to within 51-46 after a Talley basket with 6:03 left, but Byrd answered with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to eight. After a David Rivers bucket made it 54-48, Byrd responded with a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to nine, and Nebraska would not get any closer.
The Huskers return to action on Saturday afternoon, as they travel to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions. Tip-off is set for Noon (central) and the game will be televised on ESPNU and carried on the Husker Sports Network.