Northwestern hung around against a top-20 team Tuesday night, but unable to take advantage of Purdue's lengthy second-half dry spell, the result was the one everyone expected.
The Wildcats got as close as four on multiple occasions in the second half against the 17th-ranked Boilermakers, but the home team pulled away late for the double-digit 71-61 victory in West Lafayette.
Despite big statistical advantages for Purdue all over the box score, Northwestern — thanks in part to 10 first-half points from Tre Demps — trailed by just eight at halftime. And things were looking up for the Cats when the Boilers were unable to do much of anything shooting the basketball for much of the second half. After a bit of basket trading out of the break, Northwestern had the deficit down to four not even five minutes in while Purdue struggled from the field. The Boilers' stretch of poor shooting lasted a while, with only three made baskets coming in the second half's first 12 minutes.
But despite that woeful shooting by Purdue, Northwestern couldn't do anything with it. The Cats, though they shot well — 56 percent — in the second half, had their own dry spells, at one point going three and a half minutes without a bucket. More notably, Northwestern sent Purdue on a parade to the free-throw line. The Boilers attempted 19 free throws in the second half and made 15 of them, going 21-for-28 from the charity stripe on the game.
With about eight minutes to play, Purdue found its shot, and the deficit exploded back out to double figures. Ryan Cline hit a pair of 3-pointers in a minute and a half, and the Boilers were off. The second of those 3s was the start of an 8-0 spurt that quickly made it a 14-point game, and the score didn't get any closer than seven down the stretch.
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The Boilers were out-shot on the night but had massive advantages in free throws (21-for-28 vs. 5-for-8), as well as rebounding (45-24), bench scoring (36-12) and second-chance points (16-6). The Cats also struggled from 3-point range, going 6-for-27 from behind the arc.
A.J. Hammons was huge for Purdue, both literally and figuratively. The seven-foot senior scored a game-high 18 points and recorded a double-double with 12 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the season and his fourth in the last five games. Johnny Hill finished with a season-high 15 points, and Cline ended with 11 points.
Demps was the high man for Northwestern with 16 points. Bryant McIntosh had 14 points, while Alex Olah scored 12.
The loss dropped the Cats to 17-10 overall and 5-9 in Big Ten play. Next up is a trip to Michigan next Wednesday.
The Boilers improved to 21-6 overall and 9-5 in the league. Next up is a huge game against in-state rival Indiana on Saturday night in Bloomington.