Lewis Jackson didn’t have to go back far to find inspiration for the Big Ten tournament.
I told the guys in the locker room, Don’t forget where we were at last year, and then you take a look at a team like Penn State, they made it to the championship of the Big Ten. Michigan State struggled, they went out and beat us. There are still opportunities,’ Purdue’s senior guard said Sunday.
Purdue, the No. 6 seed in the tournament, will face No. 11 seed Nebraska about 8 tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The winner will meet third-seeded Ohio State on Friday.
The Nittany Lions were the No. 6 seed last year. They won three games to make it to the final. Purdue was the No. 2 seed last year and lost to Michigan State in the quarterfinals.
Nothing matters now about the regular season, Jackson said.
The Big Ten champion is going to be crowned; we didn’t win it. But now we can win a championship here. The regular season is over with. Now we head to the best part of the season.
Purdue (20-11) is coming off an 85-74 loss at Indiana on Sunday. The Boilermakers trailed 49-34 at halftime but got within six points late in the game before falling.
Obviously, you would like to win your last game going into the Big Ten tournament, but if we could learn something from this loss and it helps in the tournament, so be it, Purdue coach Matt Painter said. I thought our guys would be ready to play, I didn’t think we would have as many breakdowns as we did in the first half.
Good teams make you break down. We got lost on ball screens three or four times and we have to be more consistent in that area. We’ll see; you can sit here and say whatever you want, it’s about how you play (today).
The Boilermakers have won five of their last seven games. That stretch included an 85-63 victory over Nebraska on Feb. 22 at Mackey Arena in the only meeting in the regular season. Robbie Hummel had a season-high 29 points, and the Boilermakers made 13 three-pointers in the victory.
The Big Ten season is a grind, and you feel like you’re prepared, but you have to play well and shoot well in those games, Painter said. You’re going to a neutral court. You can’t go into it thinking you’ve got to win four games, even though you do. You need to keep your focus on the opponent in front of you. We know Nebraska is going to come in there and fight and compete and hopefully we do the same.
Nebraska (12-17) lost its last four games and has one win in its last nine games. Bo Spencer leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.1 points. Spencer scored 19 points against Purdue.
It just takes a team to get hot, Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. Is it going to be easy? No. Now we know, you don’t win now, the end is here. We have nothing to hold back.