LINCOLN — If there is such a thing as gaining momentum from a 0-4 start in Big Ten men's basketball, Nebraska appears to have done it.
After getting drilled by then-No. 8 Ohio State in the conference opener, the Huskers led Wisconsin by one point inside six minutes before losing; played then-No. 2 Michigan to single digits on the road until the final three minutes; and were down one point inside two minutes at then-No. 22 Michigan State.
Still, no W's for the Huskers (9-8, 0-4) entering Wednesday's home game against Purdue (8-8, 2-2).
Yet, as senior guard Dylan Talley said Tuesday, there are signs of hope.
“We saw that we can compete,” he said. “We're still confident. We're not ashamed of losing. We're mad we lost. We should have won, we felt. But it was a rough road trip. We just hope we can get a win soon.”
So does Nebraska coach Tim Miles.
“I've seen some improvement,” he said. “But it feels hollow because we haven't come out on top. They picked us last in the league, and we're last in the league. That stinks.”
Teams can draw strength from playing close for only so long, Miles said.
“We've got to win eventually to be confident,” he said. “I think we can win any night out, whether it looks like a winnable game or it looks like an impossible game.”
The Purdue game is the first in Big Ten play this year that the Huskers won't be at least a double-digit underdog.
“They are an aggressive team,” Miles said. “They concern me with their defense. They are really disruptive to offensive flow, and we need as little disruption as possible.
“They are a fearless team that is a bunch of fighters, and we'll have to deal with that.”
Nearly every Nebraska opponent will hold a depth advantage, but Purdue may blanket the Huskers with bodies unlike any other foe.
The Boilermakers have 11 players who have started a game this season. Nine average more than 10 minutes a game. Seven have led the team in scoring. Nebraska, in its most recent game, used seven players, and just four scored.
Junior guard Terone Johnson leads Purdue at 13.1 points a game. His brother, freshman guard Ronnie Johnson, also starts and averages 9.1 points. The Boilermakers start three freshmen and have two seniors on the roster.
“It's very exciting to see a young team like this keep getting better and better,” Terone Johnson said. “At 2-2, we think this is a big game that can get us over the hump moving forward.”
At 0-4, Nebraska would like anything resembling a hump-hurdling victory.
“It's not like, 'Oh, yeah, we're back home and we can relax now,'” Talley said. “We've got to have that same mindset to fight.”
Ľ NOTES: Miles said he plans to proceed for the game without Husker senior Brandon Ubel (fractured elbow). ... Talley said he expects a strong home crowd Wednesday. “They've supported us through rougher times than this. So I don't see why they won't.” Tickets are available for as little as $10.
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