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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern can’t break slide, falls to No. 24 Purdue 75-70

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Not a bad performance, but still not enough.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The losing streak has hit nine.

Northwestern (6-10, 3-9 Big Ten) fell to No. 24 Purdue (13-7, 8-5) 75-70, prolonging its skid and dropping its ninth-straight to the Boilers since 2015.

After a week-long break since their last loss to Rutgers, the Wildcats had a chance to reset and begin the sunset phase of the season on a positive note. That’s not how things went, however, as the ‘Cats committed 15 turnovers and were vastly out-tripped to the charity stripe, shooting just 8-for-11 compared to Purdue’s 23-for-24.

Jaden Ivey led Purdue with a career-high 20 points and added seven boards. Four Boiler freshmen finished in double figures.

Three Wildcats scored in double figures, with Pete Nance and Chase Audige leading the way. Powered by a 15-point second half, the junior forward finished with 20 on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting, while Audige kept NU in it in the first half and scored 12 before halftime. He added only five after the break but finished with five rebounds and five assists as well.

Purdue wasted no time establishing Trevion Williams on the inside. The star big man attracted constant attention and passed with precision when facing double teams, which led to a number of open three-pointers for Purdue’s shooters.

The ‘Cats looked outmatched on both ends of the floor early on. They were unable to convert any good looks, trailing the Boilermakers 9-1 nearly five minutes into the game before Audige hit a triple for NU’s first field goal.

Despite a quick 5-0 run that cut Purdue’s lead to three, Northwestern struggled to keep things rolling, missing consecutive layups and turning the ball over nine times in the first half. Purdue struggled offensively to start as well, entering the under-12 timeout on a 1-for-8 field goal drought.

Boo Buie offered a needed spark with back to back three-pointers, but while he was heating up, Williams continued to assert himself in the paint and the Boilermakers built a lead that got as large as 13 before the half. Purdue’s control of the paint led to freshman Matt Nicholson earning meaningful minutes for the first time this season, and the 7-footer punctuated his appearance with a running block in transition.

For as poorly as things went in the opening 20 minutes, the ‘Cats caught fire from deep to close things out with Audige, Buie and Ty Berry each made triples as part of a 12-2 Northwestern run over the final three minutes. Strangely enough, it was the usually reliable marksman Miller Kopp who couldn’t convert any of his open looks, as the junior guard finished scoreless in the first half and registered only five points on the day on 2-of-9 shooting.

Purdue held a 35-32 advantage at the half.

The second started with both teams hitting from deep and Pete Nance getting in on the action a three and a bucket on the inside. The two teams played even through the first seven minutes of the second period before a barrage of fouls and turnovers from Northwestern allowed Purdue to build their lead back out to nine nearing the 10-minute mark of the half. PU entered the bonus with over 12 minutes left in the game, meaning every NU foul from thereon sent it to the line.

The ‘Cats managed to scrap their way back into the contest once Williams was sent to the bench with his fourth foul, slowing the Boilermakers’ offense. With Williams on the bench, 7-foot-4 freshman Zach Edey picked up extra playing time and finished the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

NU played well enough to have a realistic shot at the win as the game drew to a close, but Edey’s length on the inside crossed with the open court athleticism of Ivey and Brandon Newman was simply too much for Northwestern to handle. After a first half in which the Wildcats shot 7-of-14 from beyond the arc, they hit just three of fourteen attempts from deep.

A streak of miscues from Purdue while trying to inbound the ball gave the ‘Cats life in the waning moments as NU put together a 6-0 run over 16 seconds to claw within five. There just wasn’t enough time for the Wildcats, though, and Purdue hit its free throws to close the deal.

Northwestern looks to keep the losing streak from extending to double digits when it returns to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday, where it’ll take on the Indiana Hoosiers (9-8, 4-6 B1G).