Northwestern (18-4,7-2) traveled to West Lafayette Wednesday night to take on the Purdue Boilermakers (18-4, 7-2). Despite this being their first ranked matchup EVER (guess who who’s to blame for that), it wasn’t all that close. After starting up 10-9, Northwestern surrendered 12 straight points, before Purdue went outscored them by 11 more points to end the first half leading 45-23.
After the toughest 20 minutes the Wildcats have faced, they would get their act together, and keep Purdue in check if nothing else. Northwestern actually began to make a push before a questionable technical call gave Purdue free throws and the ball. Jon Crispin, the BTN announcer shared his confusion with fans as to what instigated the call.
Chris Collins just got a technical, then applauded the official for calling it. Northwestern down 69-55 to Purdue, 3:25 left.
— Paul Skrbina (@ChiTribSkrbina) February 2, 2017
Ultimately, this killed Northwestern’s rally, while down just 14 points. Purdue would score seven straight after that and finish off the game 80-59.
Player Notes: Bryant McIntosh: NU’s 2nd half rally was instigated by McIntosh finding his confidence and stride from the field. He challenged the Boilermakers from the middle of the floor, working the ball inside, outside, and nailing some solid mid-range shots. 9-19 from the field, his 22 points were far and away the best for the Cats.
Vic Law: Once again, Vic Law struggled offensively. Not only was the shot selection poor but the timing was bad as well. In need of points, Law showed impatience by launching up long-range two-pointers. Law did, however, get three steals and draw some breakaway fouls to keep Purdue in check
Dererk Pardon and Barrett Benson: Both struggled with foul trouble, both struggled with defense, and both struggled to out-rebound their Boilermaker counterparts. The footwork on Caleb Swanigan drew too many fouls, and the two gave 7’2 center Isaac Haas too many easy opportunities from his right hand. Given Pardon’s size as is (6’8), Chris Collins should consider putting the taller/quicker Benson on Haas, and the shorter more physical Pardon on Swanigan when Purdue comes to Evanston. Each had four personal fouls, picking up two a piece early on. One huge issue? The two struggled to make open mid-range jumpers from the elbow. If these two can start making those shots, they can spread the floor a bit more and keep their defenders honest.
Team Notes: From the field Purdue’s 48% gave them a big edge over NU’s 35%, however NU only had three fewer FG’s. However, Purdue was 12-23 from beyond the arc while NU was 2-14. Vince Edwards was 5-7 from downtown because NU’s double teams in the paint left the arc open.
Because so many points came from open three’s off of double teams, Purdue had 17 assists compared to NU’s 8. Purdue’s big men also positioned themselves fantastically to outrebound NU 41-30. Swanigan had another double-double with 16 rebounds.
Ultimately, Northwestern’s 2nd half showed that this team needn’t be too concerned about the first 20 minutes.
— Inside NU (@insidenu) February 2, 2017
For Next Time: The first half was about as bad as it could get for Northwestern. Understanding their mistakes with double-teaming, shot selection, and sagging off defenders, they were able to quickly adjust in the second half. When Purdue visits Evanston, I fully expect them to hold their own against the Boilermakers. With Scottie Lindsey back against Purdue in Evanston next month, NU should have some more offensive flexibility and more opportunities to penetrate Purdue’s defense. As we saw last night, doing so forced Caleb Swanigan to foul out.
What’s next: Chris Collins will have time to regroup his squad and prepare for a home matchup vs. Illinois on Tuesday. At 7-3 in the Big Ten, a win to go up 8-3 in conference play will give the Wildcats plenty of breathing room and get them within sight of 10 conference wins (presumably the number needed to assure an at-large tournament bid).