by Quinn Peterson
Fresh off two close conference losses, including one in OT to Evan Turner and Ohio St, No. 6 Purdue entered Saturday’s Big Ten matchup against Northwestern in need of a win. The Wildcats were also in search of a marquee win, one that’s seemed to evade them the past couple years. However, only Northwestern would step up to the challenge, as they took out the Boilermakers 72-64.
Despite a packed house, and seas of purple underneath each basket, the hometown Wildcats struggled out of the gate. With Northwestern missing their first five field goals, Purdue jumped out to an early lead. John Shurna broke the Wildcats drought, scoring their first basket nearly six minutes into the game. Purdue didn’t get off to a great offensive start either, but their defense got the job done. Their pressure forced Northwestern into three early turnovers, and several possessions in which the shot clock almost expired.
The Boilermakers did a good job of taking Northwestern out of their Princeton offense, but 10 straight points from NU point guard Michael Thompson gave the Wildcats their first lead, and put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the evening. His energy lit a much-needed fire under the Wildcats, who had been a step slow thus far.
“It seems like has ownership,” said Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter. “I don’t know how to really explain that. I just kinda know it when I see it. It’s his team…picking his spots. He had a good stretch early, offensively of scoring the basketball.”
Thompson even got it done despite mysteriously coming under the weather, to the point of throwing up at halftime.
“I don’t have the flu or anything like that,” said Thompson. “It just came to a point in the game where I felt sick.”
“I feel very good [now],” he said after the game.
While Thompson was able to get his team going, no one stepped up and did the same for Purdue. Unable to score, shooting just 31 percent in the half, they couldn’t rebound either. The Wildcats killed Purdue on the boards all night, beginning with out-rebounding them 24-12 in the first half. Turnovers were the only thing that kept the Boilermakers in the game. They forced the WIldcats into nine turnovers, then translated that into 11 points. All while taking care of the ball themselves, having just one turnover of their own.
“Their pressure hurt us in the first half,” said Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody. “We had nine turnovers…they put the heat on us pretty good, but they weren’t getting second shots.”
After being hit with a 12-0 run, E’Twuan Moore got things going for the Boilermakers, en route to 10 points in the half. Notice the big names were quiet. Jajuan Johnson played just 11 minutes due to early foul trouble, while Shurna shot just 2-7 for four points. Robbie Hummell was scoreless before briefly leaving with an eye injury, but rang off five quick points after returning.
Northwester 26, Purdue 25. Halftime.
The Wildcats set the tone immediately, scoring four points on two quick layups, forcing Painter to call time out less than two minutes into the half. This time it was Purdue’s turn go ice from the field, as they opened up 0-5 from the field. After close to four minutes, Hummell, who scored Purdue’s first five points, finally broke their cold stretch.
Johnson’s woes continued, as he picked up foul number four at the 13:07 mark, and Northwestern took full advantage of his absence. Wildcat center, Luka Mirkovic, went on to score 12 of his 16 points in the second half, and Purdue continued to get dominated on the glass. They’d be out-rebounded 42-23 for the entire game.
“The story of the game Northwestern’s ability to chase long rebounds down, and just dominate us on the glass,” said Painter.
The two teams jockeyed back and forth for much of the earlier part of the half, but a Drew Crawford three-pointer that came as the shot clock expired, broke the game open for the Wildcats. It was the first of two HUGE three’s by Crawford.
“It was probably the play of the game,” said Painter.
The bucket sent the crowd into a frenzy, as Welsh-Ryan Arena got the loudest its been all season. Although the Boilermakers clawed to keep themselves in the game, the Wildcats never really looked back. When things did get close it was another Crawford three that sealed the deal. He then followed that up with a three-point play the old-fashioned way on the very next play.
“I just waited for my time in the game,” said the freshman. “The first half it was everybody else knocking shot down, in the second half I hit a couple, but it’s all about how we work together as a team.”
Northwestern 72, Purdue 64. Final Score.
Crawford finished with 15 points, while Thompson led the way with 20, and Mirkovic added 16 points and 10 rebounds.E’Twuan led Purdue with 24, and Hummell had 20. No one else was in double figures for the Boilermakers, who shot just 36 percent.
The Northwestern crowd stormed the court after the victory.
“The fan support tonight was unbelievable. It was great to have everybody there. Storming in the court, that was pretty cool. I might have got popped in the face one time, but it was pretty cool” Crawford said after the game.