The Wildcats looked to break a five-game losing streak Saturday afternoon against the Purdue Boilermakers. Now they’ll be on the hunt to end a six-game drought after a 65-54 loss to Purdue (12-5, 3-4 B1G).
Northwestern (6-11, 0-7 B1G) turned the ball over 25 times and lost the offensive rebounding battle, 14-3. Kaylah Rainey led the way for the ‘Cats, tallying 14 points and four assists. Sydney Wood and Caileigh Walsh also notched double-digit outings, though neither was particular efficient from the field.
Abbey Ellis starred for the Boilermakers, putting up 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 from three. Jeanae Terry added a near double-double for Purdue, grabbing nine rebounds and 10 assists.
The first few minutes of action wasn’t anything to write home about, as the teams traded misses and turnovers. Madison Layden, one of Purdue’s starting guards, overshot a three that sent Northwestern’s offense into transition. Walsh traveled with the ball a few seconds later.
Layden broke the scoring seal, splashing a wide-open three that was made possible by some impressive Purdue passing. Paige Mott then got the ‘Cats going, scoring a baseline jumper to put her squad on the board. Northwestern had a tough time capitalizing, however, as Ellis came down the court and answering with an easy layup.
Turnovers ensued for NU, as it lost the ball seven times in the game’s first eight minutes. Errant passes and poor ball handling inhibited any sort of momentum Joe McKeown’s squad might’ve built in the first quarter. The Boilermakers had three turnovers in the opening period.
The silver lining of the game’s inaugural 10 minutes for Northwestern was its off-ball movement. Wood was the team’s most efficient runner, wiggling into the paint on more than one occasion to score four easy paint points.
The second quarter opened with another Walsh travel before a flurry of layups from the Boilermakers extended their lead to nine. McKeown was forced to call a timeout after Caroline Lau ricocheted a pass off her own rim, and Jayla Smith nabbed an easy layup.
Purdue’s full-court press gave the Wildcats trouble, leading to even more giveaways. But Rainey eventually got her team out of its scoring drought, knocking down a clutch three to energize a demoralized NU offense.
Both teams started to invest more in their passing schemes in the second period. Ellis had an impressive feed to Rickie Woltman. On the other end of the court, the ‘Cats worked the ball around the arc until Courtney Shaw was fouled on an open layup attempt.
Northwestern’s best first-half attribute was arguably its rebounding, as it snatched 12 boards in the first 17 minutes of play.
The highlight of the half was a eye-rubbing, jaw-dropping double-clutch layup from Wood. After that make, Rainey corralled a steal off of the Purdue inbounder, but Lau failed to convert on the wide open deep shot that followed.
Northwestern’s offense started to rev, though. Walsh nailed back-to-back threes, cutting Purdue’s lead to six with just under two minutes to go in the second quarter. Boilermaker coach Katie Gearlds called a timeout following the run. Keeping his foot on the pedal, McKeown sent his players into a press that seemed to get under the skin of Purdue’s offense. Rainey then nailed another open three-pointer, cutting the NU deficit to just three.
Terry almost put a damper on the Wildcat run, inflicting a blocking foul on Walsh that had McKeown interrogating the referees. Still, Terry couldn’t convert on either free throw.
Purdue tried to close the half with a bucket of its own, but Terry got called with a charge this time around. Northwestern failed to take the ball up-court quick enough, and went into halftime down 30-27.
To start the second half, Northwestern took it down the court before Wood missed a jumper and unsuccessfully fought for her own rebound. Purdue didn’t convert on their end, and Caroline Lau finished in transition, bringing the deficit to one.
Purdue opened the third period with an intense press, which the ‘Cats were able to break with relative ease. With the Boilermakers off-balance, Wood drew contact from a defender and swished one of her accompanying free throws.
Purdue broke a 14-0 run that started in the second quarter with a field goal from Terry.
The theme to open the back half of the game was pace and hustle. Both teams were scrapping for steals and sprinting down the hardwood. The extra energy paid off for NU, as an and-one play from Rainey gave the ‘Cats their first lead of the day, 36-35.
Ellis righted the ship for the gold-and-black, knocking down a contested three and finishing on a transition layup to give a small lead back to the Boilermakers. After a media timeout halfway through the third, Purdue led 42-38.
Some fouls and questionable shot choices stifled any immediate offensive response from Northwestern. Ellis tacked on another floater and a couple of free throws, taking her point total on the day up to 20.
A clutch steal from Rainey and an even nicer pass from McWilliams got NU going again, as Jillian Brown banked in a bucket. A Caroline Lau steal followed, but the guard missed the ensuing wide open layup, causing McKeown to slap his clipboard against the scorer’s table.
The third quarter came to a close after Ellis was off the mark on a near-half court heave. Purdue entered the final period up 49-43.
The final quarter didn’t start well for the Wildcats, as Caitlyn Harper posted up a Northwestern defender for an easy basket. On the other end, a discombobulated NU offense produced sloppy passes that led to a shot clock violation.
With a chance to reignite the team’s momentum, Wood hit back rim on a shot behind the arc. Purdue came down the court, used most of the shot clock, moved the ball like a Gregg Popovich-led Spurs team and hammered in a three-pointer.
The Boilermakers had extended their lead back into double digits, 56-45, with five minutes left to play. Heading into the final media timeout, the Wildcats hadn’t scored in 3:38.
Despite multiple opportunities to bring it back within reach, the ‘Cats couldn’t manage to score on consecutive possessions. Some SportsCenter-worthy passes from Ellis sealed the deal, keeping Purdue’s healthy lead intact.
The Boilermakers wrapped the game up with free throws down the stretch to hand Northwestern its sixth straight loss. The buzzer sounded as Purdue walked away with a 65-54 win.
The ‘Cats will head to Columbus to continue Big Ten play against No. 3 Ohio State on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. CT. They will look for revenge against the Buckeyes, who blew NU out 81-48 at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Dec. 28. You can catch the action on the Big Ten Network.