NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska

 Nebraska upset No. 1 Purdue 88-72 on Tuesday night for the program's first win over the nation's top-ranked team since 1982. The Cornhuskers (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) made a season-high 14 shots from 3-point range and validated their strong start with a marquee victory.

The outcome ended a seven-game winning streak for the Boilermakers (14-2, 3-2), who are in their fourth straight week atop the polls. Purdue did not suffer its second Big Ten loss last season until Feb. 4 while winning the league by three games. After falling to the Cornhuskers for the first time since December 2019, the Boilermakers find themselves in the thick of the conference standings through a quarter of the league slate.

Purdue led 28-25 with 3:44 remaining in the first half when star center Zach Edey went to the bench after picking up his second foul. Without him, the Boilermakers surrendered a 16-2 run to close the half and entered the break trailing 41-30.

Unfazed, Purdue began the second half on a 20-10 surge, cutting the deficit to 51-50 with 13:51 remaining. But Nebraska took the blow in stride and promptly rebuilt the lead behind an 11-0 spurt highlighted by nine points from C.J. Wilcher. The junior guard provided a spark off the bench and helped the Cornhuskers keep pace with a Purdue team that hit 13 of 33 shots from 3-point range. Wilcher scored 16 while Rienk Mast scored 18. Keisei Tominaga led all scorers with 19 for Nebraska.

When the Boilermakers suffered their only other loss, a 92-88 overtime defeat at Northwestern on Dec. 1, they struggled with a season-high 17 turnovers. Taking care of the basketball was a problem again for Purdue on Tuesday as Nebraska enjoyed a 14-9 edge in turnovers, which helped create a 13-1 advantage in fast-break points.

Purdue's problems

Nebraska converted Purdue's turnovers into 18 points, and some of those costly blunders came at particularly inopportune moments. Sam Hoiberg, the son of Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg and a former walk-on, picked up three steals for the Cornhuskers, two of which led directly to fast break layups. Both plays served to ignite the home crowd in the midst of big runs, the first one coming amid Nebraska's run to close the first half and the second one coming amid the team's second-half surge.

Though responsible for just five of those turnovers, the Boilermakers' sophomore guard duo of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer didn't have its finest night. Purdue was outscored by 22 points in Smith's 35 minutes and by 25 in Loyer's 21 minutes. The two combined to shoot just 6 of 19 from the floor. Ultimately, there is no reason for Purdue to panic. Both its losses have come on the road against opponents shooting 50% or better from 3-point range.

Validating Nebraska's rise

Nebraska started 7-0 and still sported a 12-3 record entering Tuesday night's game. But skepticism over the Cornhuskers' legitimacy was warranted. Their nonconference schedule was ranked No. 353 at, and all three of their losses entering Tuesday night's showdown came by double digits.

For a program that has made one NCAA Tournament appearance in the 21st century and has yet to post a winning season in five seasons under Hoiberg, skepticism is the norm. Now, there is reason to believe Nebraska is in for a breakthrough season. While the 60.9% 3-point shooting percentage the Cornhuskers enjoyed Tuesday will scarcely be repeatable, this team is proving to be no fluke. Wins against Michigan State, Kansas State, Indiana and now Purdue show that Hoiberg finally has a team capable of contending for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Tumultuous night

Purdue's loss, coupled with No. 2 Houston's loss at Iowa State, made for a chaotic night in college basketball. Those outcomes could open the door for No. 3 Kansas to get an uptick in first-place votes next week after the Jayhawks received two of 63 possible votes in this week's balloting. Kansas plays at UCF on Wednesday and hosts No. 9 Oklahoma on Saturday.

Not only did Purdue's loss muddy the picture atop the rankings, but it also made things interesting in the Big Ten. Purdue is the heavy favorite to repeat as the league's regular season champion, but it could get interesting. Wisconsin is off to a 3-0 start in league play entering Wednesday night's game at Ohio State. The Badgers and Boilermakers meet twice in what could turn out as consequential games in the league title race.