Despite a sloppy first half that saw Purdue turn the ball over five times the Boilermakers still walked out of Welsh-Ryan Arena with their heads held high. As we've seen numerous times thus far in B1G play Purdue had a huge advantage down low and used it. Combined the two big men for Purdue had 26 points and 10 rebounds. You really can't ask for much more than that. With the victory Purdue moves to 6-3 in conference and leaves their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- This one goes to A.J. Hammons for his dominant performance. A.J. takes a lot of heat on the interwebs because he doesn't always seem to hustle. Tonight no such argument could be made. Hammons was running the court and making big plays. Even when he wasn't scoring he was finding the open man. In the second half when he was double-teamed he found a wide open Vince Edwards for a three. Hammons finished with 16 points and nine rebounds to go along with two assists and zero turnovers. He had himself a ballgame.
Purdue started the first half hot. It was a bit unsettling. On offense it quickly became clear that poor Alex Olah was no match for the JWMPOTG. Purdue made crisp passes and was able to find the open man on many of the early possessions. Rest assured that wouldn't continue though. Purdue wound up with this five quick turnovers and brought Northwestern back into the game. After going up 10-6 Purdue allowed an 11-4 run. Purdue looked unsettled on both ends of the floor. The unforced mistakes really gave a struggling Northwestern team the opportunities they needed to stay in the game. As Purdue is wont to do they allowed Northwestern to claw into the lead. To the surprise of basically no one watching the game at home Northwestern wound up going into half with a one point lead at 29-28. Despite the quick five turnovers Purdue managed to calm down and take care of the ball the rest of the half. One of the main reasons Purdue went into half down was the free throw shooting. On the half Purdue went just 9-14.
The second half for Purdue was oh so sweet. Purdue scored on their first eight trips down the floor including a goal tend and a pair of free throws. At the same time the Purdue defense found their groove. Northwestern managed just four points in the first seven minutes of the second half. Purdue of course scored 21 points. That was pretty much the ballgame right there. Purdue used crisp passing and a dominant performance by the JWMPOTG during that run. Hammons is always graded on a bit of a harder scale because we expect so much of him but tonight he lived up to the hype. He did everything you want your seven footer to do. His strength and athleticism made a difference on both ends of the floor. Since this was Purdue though it wouldn't be quite that easy.
Despite being up double digits for the first half of the second half (that's a confusing sentence) Purdue would again find a way to allow an opponent to get back into the game. Purdue got a little sloppy with the basketball committing a few quick turnovers. More importantly though Purdue took some bad shots and missed some easy rebounds. I'm not sure why Purdue has a penchant for letting teams back into games but it sure makes things interesting. The Purdue lead dwindled all the way down to six at one point. Purdue though surprised us all by hitting some clutch free throws. In the last four minutes of the game Purdue hit 11-12. Purdue closed out the game and moved to 6-3 in conference play. Let's take a look at some quick thoughts.
- Stephens is clearly still struggling with that finger. I don't think they've said exactly what is wrong with him but he doesn't look as sharp as earlier in the season. One play illustrates that as Stephens just gave made one of the laziest passes I've ever seen. That lazy pass led to a Northwestern bucket. The guy needs to get right because he's a huge part of this team.
- Davis has truly become a man out there this season. He's been doing it all. He's the emotional leader of the team. Davis had 15 points and seven rebounds. You have to love seeing that many rebounds from a guard.
- Purdue had 16 assists on 21 made buckets. It's great to see this team sharing the basketball so much more than teams these last couple seasons.
- It's troubling to see Purdue just 2-9 from three point land today. It's been a real struggle for this team when Stephens doesn't hit.