WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — For Purdue, Sunday's first seven minutes comprised all the makings of what could have been a frustrating and unexpected home loss.
The Boilermakers made only one of their first eight field goal attempts and one of their first six free throws but trailed Nebraska only 8-3 in Mackey Arena when it really could have been much worse.
With Vince Edwards scoring 15 points and Kendall Stephens adding 12, Purdue finally got untracked and pulled away to a 66-54 Big Ten Conference victory.
Purdue (17-9, 9-4) pulled back into a second-place tie with 19th-ranked Maryland, each three games in the loss column behind No. 5 Wisconsin. The Boilermakers beat Nebraska (13-12, 5-8) for the fifth consecutive time in West Lafayette. Purdue improved to 6-1 in Big Ten home games, losing only to Maryland on Jan. 10.
"It has been a good lesson for our guys to hang in there when shots haven't been going down," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "Sometimes when you struggle from the perimeter, it affects other parts of the game. For the most part in the last month, when we have struggled shooting the ball, we have hung in there."
Nebraska coach Tim Miles acknowledged what might have been had his team not followed a good start with a 3-of-16 shooting drought.
"We make our first three buckets, and then we go on a long dry spell," Miles said. "I was sitting there at halftime thinking that we had played good defense and they had missed 19 shots."
At that point, Nebraska trailed 26-20, and Purdue had weathered the storm.
Purdue used a 10-2 run that began with 14:54 remaining to take a 48-32 lead with 12:19 to go. That burst included a three-point play from Edwards and a 3-pointer from Stephens.
After Nebraska countered with a 7-0 run, Stephens sank his fourth 3-pointer to give the Boilermakers a 51-39 advantage with 10:11 to go.
Isaac Haas and Rapheal Davis had layups that pushed the Purdue lead to 55-39 with 9:18 to go.
Nebraska closed within seven points with less than five minutes, but Dakota Mathias' 3-pointer with 1:51 iced it for Purdue at 64-51. The freshman guard added 10 points.
"My teammates did a good job finding me when I really wanted to complement our big men," said Edwards, who made 6 of 10 shots. "Most of the time, our big men were being doubled inside. Our bigs draw a lot of attention, so that can create opportunities. We had to knock down open shots, and we made those shots."
Edwards, Stephens and Mathias were a collective 8 of 14 from 3-point range on a day when 7-footers Haas and A.J. Hammons were only a combined 3 of 9 from the field and 7 of 15 from the free-throw line for 13 points. Hammons had 12 rebounds, and Haas had four.
"Making those 3-point shots was huge," said Stephens, who was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. "They were really trapping Isaac and A.J. quickly."
Purdue finished 8 of 21 from 3-point range, outscored Nebraska 18-7 from the free throw line and outrebounded the Cornhuskers 44-29.
Shavon Shields led the Cornhuskers with 19, and Terran Petteway added 13.
The Boilermakers took their first lead at 13-12 on a Davis layup at the 8:06 mark.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have lost five of their last six. ... Nebraska made its first three field-goal attempts on Sunday, then made only six of its final 26 opening-half shots. ... Terran Petteway or Shavon Shields has led Nebraska's scoring in 24 of 25 games this season.
Purdue: The Boilermakers have won six of seven, losing only at Minnesota. ... In conference games, Purdue and Ohio State are the only teams to rank among the top four in field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense. ... Purdue's 17th victory is its most since the 2011-2012 team finished 22-13.
Purdue had 18 offensive rebounds — 10 more than Nebraska — and enjoyed a 23-7 advantage in second chance points. ... The Boilermakers got 19 points from their non-starters, 11 more than the Cornhuskers. ... Four Purdue players - Hammons, Davis, Octeus and Edwards - combined for 32 rebounds. Nebraska finished with 29.
Nebraska's Petteway, who entered averaging a team-best 18.9 points, was held to 13 on 5-of-12 shooting, including only 1 of 6 from 3-point range. He also was guilty of four turnovers.
Nebraska visits Maryland on Thursday night.
Purdue visits Indiana on Thursday night.
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