With Swanigan sidelined, Purdue's Edwards must stay sharp
Vince Edwards has been able to elevate his play of late, which Purdue will likely need to continue if talented freshman Caleb Swanigan remains sidelined.
Regardless of the lineup, the No. 21 Boilermakers must be sharp Saturday against a Nebraska squad looking to win four straight conference road games for the first time in 40 years.
Averaging 10.1 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds, Swanigan watched for the first time Wednesday with a sore ankle as Purdue (18-4, 6-3 Big Ten) pulled out a 68-64 win at Minnesota. Pushed into Swanigan's power forward spot, Edwards scored a season-high 24, went 4 of 7 from 3-point range and pulled down eight rebounds.
The 6-foot-8 Edwards averaged 8.0 points and shot 38.6 percent -- 9 of 31 from 3 -- in the previous 12 games before scoring 17.2, shooting 53.3 percent and going 10 of 19 from beyond the arc in the last five.
"I think he has been playing well, and then all of a sudden he got a couple more looks from (3) than he normally gets," said coach Matt Painter, who is not certain when Swanigan will return.
"The thing that opens up for us is so much attention goes to our centers (7-foot A.J. Hammons and 7-2 Isaac Haas). Guys maybe aren't used to covering (the perimeter) as much. You're going to get some more opportunities."
Purdue bounced back from Sunday's 83-71 loss at then-No. 9 Iowa despite allowing the Golden Gophers to hold a 46-28 edge in the paint and make half of their shots after the Hawkeyes did the same.
"We can't have any more lessons. We need to mature and grow up," Edwards said.
The Boilermakers kept the Gophers winless in the Big Ten by holding a 39-28 advantage on the boards and outscoring them 13-4 on the offensive glass. Tied for second in the Big Ten -- along with Nebraska -- by allowing just 9.0 offensive boards per game, Purdue has held five of the last six opponents to five or fewer.
Nebraska (12-9, 4-4) hasn't needed to rebound many of its own misses lately, shooting 52.2 percent while winning four of its last five overall. It's in position to win four consecutive league road contests for the first time since 1975-76.
The Cornhuskers lost 13 straight on the road overall prior to winning at Rutgers, Illinois and stunning then-No. 11 Michigan State 72-71 on Jan. 20. Nebraska held those three to 38.3 percent from the field while making at least half its shots in each game, boosting its league-best shooting percentage in Big Ten play to 49.1.
The Cornhuskers, however, took a step back last Saturday, with an 81-68 loss to Michigan. Nebraska shot 48.3 percent, but the Wolverines went 25 of 47 from the field, 11 of 21 from 3 and held a 32-24 rebounding advantage.
"It was a disappointing night," said coach Tim Miles, whose team is 3-1 on the road and 1-3 at home in the Big Ten. "But buck up, this is big-boy basketball. ... Get our guys back in order and figure out how to win on the road."
Senior swingman Shavon Shields (15.8 ppg) equaled a season high with 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting at Michigan State but had 11 while going 4 of 11 last weekend. He scored 19 in a 66-54 loss in last season's only meeting with Purdue, dropping Nebraska to 0-3 in West Lafayette since joining the Big Ten.
Edwards had 15 in that contest.