Over the past year, there hasn’t been anything more frustrating for Purdue fans than facing sixteen seeds in the first round of March Madness and Northwestern. The Wildcats have been one of the only teams in the country that have found a formula to beat Purdue, upsetting the Boilermakers 64-58 last year and repeating their success this season with a thrilling 92-88 overtime win.
However, as the ‘Cats look to secure their third consecutive win over the Boilermakers on Wednesday night, the challenge will be twice as tough for Northwestern. In the previous two games, NU enjoyed the support of its home crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena. This time, Chris Collins’ squad will have to contend with the raucous atmosphere at Mackey Arena to complete the season sweep.
Winning on the road has posed a daunting challenge in the Big Ten this season. However, considering how Northwestern played against Purdue the last two times, securing the season sweep is within the realm of possibility for the ‘Cats. On the flip side, if Northwestern comes out and lays an egg like it did in Champaign, the Boilermakers should handle NU easily.
Here are three reasons why the ‘Cats will come out on top against the Boilermakers on Wednesday and why Purdue will secure a win.
Why Northwestern WILL beat Purdue
Nobody embraces a big-stage game more than Buie, as he has consistently proven throughout this season that he excels when the lights are at their brightest. In their recent win against the Boilermakers, the Wildcats arguably witnessed the best performance of Buie’s career when he led Northwestern with 31 points, nine assists and four rebounds.
This time around, the ‘Cats will need him to replicate or even surpass his career performance because when he’s hot, there’s no slowing him down. It will be vital for the Wildcats to get the All-American candidate going early because Purdue will likely come out of the gates firing hot. PU currently ranks second in the Big Ten, averaging 84.9 points per game. If Buie can’t find his rhythm, Northwestern may struggle to respond to Purdue’s potent offensive attack.
However, if Agent Zero replicates his performance from the first game, it will be monumental for Northwestern’s chances of winning.
Northwestern wins the turnover battle
One of the key factors that contributed to Northwestern’s earlier victory over Purdue this year was its clear dominance in the turnover battle. To secure another win against Purdue, the ‘Cats must replicate this success. In the previous matchup, Northwestern committed a mere three turnovers while the Boilermakers struggled with 17 turnovers of their own.
The ‘Cats excelled at pressuring Braeden Smith to make mistakes with the basketball, which resulted in six turnovers. This time, Collins must figure out how to contain Smith again.
Berry has undeniably emerged as an X-factor for the ‘Cats this season. When he scores 16 or more points, Northwestern is a perfect 5-0. One of those wins occurred against the Boilermakers, as Berry dropped 21 points, which proved critical to the ‘Cats’ win. Berry also displayed remarkable efficiency on the court, shooting over 60 percent from the floor.
The ‘Cats will need another robust scoring performance from Berry because it’s evident that when he finds ways to score, it’s hard to beat them.
Why Northwestern WON’T beat Purdue
Edey has been college basketball’s best player by a landslide for the second straight year, currently averaging 23 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Slowing down the All-American has proven nearly impossible for teams across the country, and it will be once again challenging for the ‘Cats.
Northwestern will be in serious trouble if Edey gets going early because the All-American can dominate and take complete control of a game. Don’t be surprised if, in front of Purdue’s home crowd, Edey gifts Boilmaker fans a 30-point and 10-rebound performance to get his revenge on the Wildcats.
If Loyer gets going from deep, it could spell trouble for the ‘Cats. When the sharpshooter is hot, it’s hard to find an answer to stop Purdue’s offensive attack. Dealing with Edey is already one nightmare of its own, but Loyer is also a force to be reckoned with, as he has come up clutch multiple times for the Boilermakers this year. For instance, when they beat No. 1 (at the time) Arizona 92-84, he led Purdue with a team-high 27 points and five threes.
The ‘Cats will need to be wary of Loyer from beyond the arc, or it will be a tough night for them.
Home court advantage is unquestionably a significant factor in the Big Ten — especially this year — given the remarkable difficulty of winning on the road. The challenge for Collins’ squad will only intensify as they prepare to face off in one of the rowdiest arenas in the entire country.
Purdue’s student section will undoubtedly bring the noise as they seek revenge for its team’s last two losses to the ‘Cats.