CHICAGO - Purdue entered the 2013 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament playing very well of late, but fell to 10th-seeded Nebraska 57-55 on Thursday at the United Center.
Here were five keys to the Boilermakers' defeat:
Lack of early defense
Purdue allowed a struggling Nebraska team to gain confidence early in the victory by letting the Huskers shoot over 52 percent from the field in the first half.
Nebraska took a 30-28 advantage into the locker room and kept that momentum going following the break by opening the second half on a 9-0 tear.
Just OK rebounding
The Huskers were the next-to-worst rebouunding team in the Big Ten this past season, and on average got outrebounded by nearly eight boards per game.
Conversely, Purdue was the second-best rebounding team.
You wouldn't have known that by watching Thursday's game.
The Boilermakers allowed the Nebraska to outrebound them throughout much of the contest, and ultimately held just a 36-31 advantage at the end.
Purdue fans have come to learn that when freshman center A.J. Hammons shows up with energy, usually the Boilermakers win.
That wasn't the case on Thursday.
Hammons generated some offense (11 points) at times, but managed just three rebounds.
When Purdue coach Matt Painter subbed in reserve post Sandi Marcius (14 minutes), the increase in production (six rebounds) was noticeable.
Nebraska freshman forward Shavon Shields has had a solid first season of college basketball, but nothing incredible.
Again, you wouldn't have known that on Thursday.
Shields averages just eight points per game, but torced Boilermaker forwards Rapheal Davis and D.J. Byrd early and often and had 15 points by halftime.
He finished with a game-best 19 points.
Purdue hasn't often helped themselves this season by shooting free throws well and that continued on Thursday.
The Boilermakers entered the game as the second-worst free throw shooting team in the conference and against the Huskers missed half of their attempts (7 of 14).
Think that makes a difference in a two-point loss?