A Boiler of a battle brewing

Lincoln native KK Houser and Purdue met Lindsey Moore's Huskers twice last season, and together the games lasted five overtimes. NU won in three overtimes in West Lafayette, Ind., and Purdue won in two OTs in the Big Ten tournament final. “They were really crazy,” NU's Jordan Hooper said.

LINCOLN — The original was a classic. The sequel didn't disappoint. Part three is at 1 p.m. Saturday — and the only Big Ten women's basketball game on CBS this year.

Nebraska and Purdue have met twice in their histories. But it's already a rivalry with five overtimes. Three extra periods in NU's 93-89 win at PU last year. And two more in the Boilermakers' 74-70 win in the Big Ten tournament final.

“It's a fun rivalry to have, because you know both teams are going to bring it,” said senior guard Lindsey Moore, who leads the No. 19 Huskers against No. 14 Purdue and Lincoln native KK Houser, the Boilermakers' point guard and second-leading scorer.

Husker forward Jordan Hooper said last year's games with Purdue “were really crazy.”

“They were a lot of fun, too,” she said. “Five overtimes is a long time to be playing basketball against one team. But they were really fun ... it'll probably be down to the wire. Just like last year.”

One would presume that CBS, which airs a limited number of women's basketball games during the season, is banking on a three-peat of excitement. The game won't be shown on KMTV-Channel 3 in Omaha, which is airing the Creighton-Indiana State men's game at 2. But NU-Purdue will be shown on KOLN-KGIN, the CBS affiliate in Lincoln.

It's Nebraska's first game on the network, a small-but-notable watershed for a program with new facilities and a high-tempo style to show off.

Not that coach Connie Yori is publicly buying into it. Moore said the coach hasn't talked about the CBS factor much because “I don't think she wants people to get nervous.” Hooper said Yori brought it up briefly Saturday, that NU's one of the few teams that gets the opportunity, and playing well is important to taking advantage of the free, big stage.

“I almost kind of forgot about it until somebody said something about it a couple of days ago,” Yori said. “I'm sure CBS doesn't want to hear that. It's one of those things you do. You don't really change anything you do because of it, but it's a nice opportunity — hopefully for recruiting purposes.”

What could potential recruits and out-of-state Husker fans see? An 11-3 Nebraska team that seems to have found its footing on offense — scoring 70 or more points in four of its last five games — but still searching for better defense against teams that drive hard to the basket.

So far, bad defense hasn't hurt NU much because opponents are shooting 61 percent from the foul line. Purdue shoots 77.5 percent — tops in the Big Ten.

“We play a step behind a lot,” Yori said.

Why? Yori, Moore and Hooper agreed: Breakdowns in communication.

NU's switching, pressure defense requires a lot of chatter, and since losing Kaitlyn Burke to graduation last year, the Huskers don't talk as much or as emphatically. They'll have to get better, Yori said, to combat 12-2 Purdue's balanced, efficient offense that shoots 46 percent from the floor and 38 percent behind the 3-point line.

Setting the tone is Houser, the 5-foot-6 Lincoln Southeast graduate averaging 12.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. She played 43 minutes and scored 20 points in Purdue's 67-66 overtime win against Illinois on Wednesday.

“When she chose to go out of state, I was kind of glad she went to a Big Ten program because we were in the Big 12,” Yori said. “I figured we wouldn't have had to play her.”

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