LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Tim Miles had a simple reaction after coaching his team to its fifth straight win, a 76-57 victory over Purdue on Sunday.
“This is a blast,” Miles said. “I think, enjoy success but understand the process that it takes to continue to be successful. So far, so good.”
Now the Huskers need to keep winning if they want to get into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.
“We know people are talking about it,” said Terran Petteway, who led Nebraska with 29 points. “We’ve still got games left and we’ve still got the Big Ten tournament where we’ve got to get a couple wins to even make the tournament.”
Nebraska (16-10, 8-6 Big Ten) used a 26-8 second half run to take down the Boilermakers (15-12, 5-9).
Purdue made just 30 percent of its shots in the game and twice went more than 6 minutes without a field goal.
“We just weren’t able to make a simple play, especially scoring at the rim,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “When we don’t make perimeter shots, they really sag in to protect the lane. I thought they did a really good job with that, but we simply had too many breakdowns defensively.”
The second drought came early in the second half. After cutting the Nebraska lead to 39-30, Purdue made just one field goal in nearly 10 minutes.
Nebraska went up 63-38 on back-to-back dunks by Petteway and Walter Pitchford, the latter coming with 7:59 left. Purdue got no closer than 21 until Miles cleared the bench with just over 2 minutes remaining.
“It was our defense that led to our easy transition points,” said Petteway, who said the arena was so loud he couldn’t hear anything after his dunk. “We played great defense. We beat them in the transition game.”
Nebraska’s 76 points marked the first time the Huskers have scored more than 65 against the Boilermakers in their last eight meetings. It was Nebraska’s first regular-season win over Purdue since the Huskers joined the Big Ten and its first over the Boilermakers in Lincoln since 1994.
Purdue defeated Nebraska 70-64 on Jan. 12.
The Huskers won five straight conference games for the first times since 1998-99 and has won eight conference games for the first time since 2008-09 when it a member of the Big 12.
Nebraska took control of the game late in a first half. With Purdue center A.J. Hammons on the bench, Nebraska went on a 7-0 run capped by a Petteway fast break layup to take a 21-14 lead and stretched that advantage to 30-20 on Shavon Shields’ three-point play with 1:04 left.
Shields finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Purdue made just one field goal in the final 8:26 of the first half. But the Boilermakers made all 12 of their first half free throws to stay close.