EVANSTON, IL. — There were certainly moments it looked close, but the size and offensive firepower of Purdue (23-4, 12-4 B1G) proved too much for Northwestern (12-12, 5-10 B1G), as the Wildcats lost 70-64, all but ending their already slim postseason hopes.
The Boilermakers struggled from the field and beyond the arc early, but used an efficient second half in which they shot 6-of-12 from three to pull away from the Wildcats, who dropped their second straight, for good.
Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center, Zach Edey, led all scorers with 14 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting, and wreaked havoc in the paint for much of the game. Robbie Beran led the Wildcats with 13 points, while Pete Nance followed with 12 of his own. Julian Roper was dominant on the defensive side, earning two blocks and two steals to go along with his seven points.
Nance gave the Wildcats the early lead on a long jumper from the right elbow, but Purdue used a run of free throws and a Wildcat drought to jump out to a 6-2 advantage out of the gate. This shooting slump didn’t last long, though, as Northwestern’s bench gave the team a huge jolt of energy with the substitutions of Ryan Young and Ryan Greer. The ‘Cats came roaring back to take the lead, then alternated threes with Purdue, including a left-wing shot from Ty Berry that bounced off of a defender’s foot before falling into the guard’s hands.
With the score tied halfway through the first, the Boilermakers quickly went on a 9-3 run behind the offensive and defensive prowess of Edey. The Wildcats struggled scoring and defending against the giant, whose size was detrimental to Northwestern all night.
After knocking down two free throws with five minutes left in the half, Beran cashed in a deep three to pull the Wildcats within one of their top-five ranked foes. Both teams went cold as the clock neared zero’s for the half, with Northwestern’s lone basket coming off of a three from Greer with 38 seconds left. The ‘Cats trailed 32-28 at the break, with the big difference being in free throws, where Purdue held an 8-2 advantage in both attempts and makes. Edey led all scorers with 12 points on 5-of-7 from the field, while Beran paced Northwestern with eight of his own.
The Boilermakers jumped out of the gates hot to start the second half, going on a 10-3 run to extend their lead to double digits and making each of their first three shots. The ‘Cats started to find their stride with three makes of their own, and had the chance to pull even closer, but Northwestern was unable to capitalize off of two Roper steals and remained at a distance from its adversary.
The Wildcats remained cold well into the second, occasionally hitting a three after several Purdue makes. With the clock ticking under 10 minutes, Roper hit a three on a skip pass from Nance to cut it to single digits. However, the Boilermakers were unrelenting and continued to knock down shots, going back up 12 with 7:40 remaining. Even as Northwestern had possibly momentum-shifting moments like a thunderous Nance dunk, Purdue was able to keep up their firepower with retaliating triples.
A large factor in Northwestern’s offensive struggles was the lacking presence of Chase Audige. The guard picked up his fourth foul early in the second period, which led to him sitting for much of the final half.
The combination of a strong second-half shooting performance for the visitors and several long scoring droughts for Northwestern were enough to put the Wildcats away, as they ultimately fell 70-64. Purdue led by as much as 15 late in the second half.
The ‘Cats next take the court this Saturday on the road against Minnesota at 3 pm CT on Big Ten Network.