Well, it was not pretty. Purdue had an awful stretch in the second half for the fifth time in the last six games, but it was a victory. Some day that is all you can ask for. A.J. Hammons added another double-double and Purdue got a lot more from its guard in Johnny Hill and Ryan Cline, but the biggest difference came at the foul line. Purdue basically got the entire Northwestern front line in foul trouble and paraded to the free throw line during an eight minute stretch where it went without a field goal.
Simply put, it was a good enough effort to beat a mediocre Northwestern team at home, but a similar effort on Saturday will see Indiana blow out the Boilers.
I guess that is improvement. Because it was getting to the line Purdue found a way to weather another dry spell like the field. That was not there on Saturday against Michigan and it cost them a critical game in the Big Ten standings. Unfortunately, you are not going to get a 28-8 advantage from the free throw line very often and it is definitely not going to happen on the road.
It also helped that Purdue was relentless on the offensive glass. It pretty much had to be with the way it was missing from the field. A total of 19 offensive rebounds led to 16 second chance points compared to just 6 second chance points for the Wildcats. Since Purdue held the Wildcats to under 40% shooting from the field the combination of defense and rebounding was just enough.
But was it really good defense? Northwestern had a lot of open looks from the perimeter. Open looks that a team like Indiana is going to bury. Purdue also missed a ton of easy shots inside three feet just like in the Michigan game. The less that is said about the perimeter, the better. Other than a three by Hill (his first make on only five attempts on the season) and a three of six night from Cline (who had 11 points) Purdue didn't have a lot. The good news is that they did limit themselves to just 13 long range attempts and Swanigan only took one.
In short, it was an ugly win, but sometimes that is the only way you win games like this. Saturday was going to be an ugly win until it became a brutal loss.
And now comes Bloomington, and to be honest, the Hoosiers are going to beat the crap out of Purdue unless it plays light years better than its last two games. We saw the first half against Michigan State and know that good Purdue has more than enough to beat Indiana. Good Purdue has been mostly absent for five straight halves now, however, and a second half like against Michigan State won't be enough at Assembly Hall.
It is the last major road test of the season and Purdue is not looking like a team that can pass it now. The Boilers need to rebound like tonight, get more from Rapheal Davis and Vince Edwards offensively, have at least one of Cline/Mathias/Stephens hitting, and have Hammons/Haas be dominant down low to have a chance.
If any one of those is missing Purdue will lose on Saturday.