CHICAGO – When Purdue and Nebraska open play in the Big Ten tournament at 6:30 p.m. today at the United Center, both teams' coaches are expecting a different game than the first meeting.
The No. 7 seed Boilermakers (15-16) defeated the No. 10 seed Cornhuskers (14-17) 65-56 Jan. 16.
Nebraska was without 6-foot-10 senior forward Brandon Ubel for the first game. Ubel, who averages 11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, was out with a fractured elbow.
"He has size, so he can help you on the defensive end on the back line," Painter said of Ubel. "He can also go out and guard. It is kind of the same versatile attribute that he has offensively. He can pass and catch the ball. It seems simple, but when you have size and you can pass and catch the basketball, the ball doesn't stop with you and you get movement. He can knock down the perimeter shot. He can drive the ball. He can play out of the post. I think his versatility and his size give people matchup problems."
Nebraska coach Tim Miles was quick to point out his team didn't have Ubel in the loss to Purdue.
But he also acknowledged that his team will have to do a better job guarding Boilermakers guard D.J. Byrd, who knocked down four three-pointers in the second half for all of his 12 points.
"D.J. Byrd just really hurt us down the stretch," Miles said. "He made plays, and that's why they won the game."
Miles also said Purdue is the hottest team in the Big Ten after the Boilermakers closed the season winning three of their last five games.
"I think they are playing at their best," Miles said. "I think their confidence is at its highest it's been all year. That makes it a tough matchup. If you look at their resume, they are not going to be an at-large NCAA team. They have work to do to even get into the NIT. At the same time, I think if you ask them how they feel about themselves, they feel better than the have all season."
Painter said one of the big challenges against Nebraska is the Cornhuskers' willingness to wait for the right shot on offense, which forces teams to play defense longer.
"That is how they have to win," Painter said. "We are the same way. If we don't angles or numbers, we need to be more patient. It took us a while to learn that. I think they have more discipline."
Prediction: Purdue 65, Nebraska 58