Painter says Boilermakers must contain Watson in visit to Nebraska

Purdue coach Matt Painter says his team must contain Nebraska guard Glynn Watson in Sunday's game.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Spor

LINCOLN, Neb. — Keeping Glynn Watson in line is how Purdue hopes to keep its line — or move up a few — in the Top 25.

The No. 20 Boilermakers visit Nebraska on Sunday afternoon in a key Big Ten Conference showdown against the Cornhuskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Limiting the effectiveness of the Huskers’ sophomore guard — a player who was on the Boilermakers’ recruiting radar — is something Purdue coach Matt Painter said is required for his 17-4 team to improve to 7-2 in conference play.

“I think it starts with their lead guards and Watson,” Painter told the Lafayette Courier-Journal. “Just trying to keep him contained. He’s obviously one of the most improved guys in our league. Just not let him get everything.

“If he’s getting transition baskets, if he’s hitting his threes, if he’s getting his pull-ups, he’s getting to the rim, if he’s going to the free throw line; if he’s getting everything and getting the ball to other people, now you’re in big trouble.”

Watson and senior Tai Webster made big strides this season even as the Huskers struggled to a 9-11 record (3-5 Big Ten). Webster averages 18.3 points while Watson checks in a 14.6 with a per outing and a three-point shooting percentage of 41.

Painter said Nebraska’s record can be deceptive. It opened the Big Ten season with road wins at Indiana and Maryland, and defeated Iowa in double overtime before losing their next five games. Two of which — Ohio State and Rutgers — came in the final second.

“They obviously started off conference with a couple of big-time wins on the road,” Painter said. “They’ve had some bad breaks in three games that were right there, could have gone either way.”

It will be up to the Huskers to slow down Purdue’s offense, which has been especially prolific the past three games. In those wins over Illinois, Penn State and Michigan State, the Boilermakers shot 55.3 percent from the field, 46.3 percent from three-point range and 82 percent from the free throw line.

Some are calling the Purdue offense the best in Painter’s 12 seasons leading the program. There are four Boilermakers averaging more than 10 points, led by Caleb Swanigan (18.8). Isaac Haas is at 13.5, Vincent Edwards 11.8 and Carsen Edwards 10.7.

Painter said the Huskers, who lead the Big Ten in steals, are more than capable of pulling the upset.

“They’re very athletic,” Painter said. “They lead our league in steals. They do a good job of getting in the passing lanes. They do a great job of anticipation and using their speed and quickness on both ends of the court.

“It’s going to be important for us to take care of the basketball, but also to contain the dribble. Those guys are good in transition, they’re good in ball screen motion.”

It all starts with containing Watson.

“Just trying to keep him in front of us, keep him bottled up, and anything he scores make him score over us, be tough,” Painter said. “When he gets going he starts to get a little bit of everything.”

Down low is where Purdue will have the biggest advantage over the smaller Huskers.

“I like our match-up if we take care of the ball,” Painter said. “I think that’s going to be an important aspect of the game, for us to be able get the ball inside. Once it does get inside, just make the simple decision.”