Sunday was a bad loss on the road.
Wednesday night was a very, very good win at home.
For only the third time this season, Purdue has a win over a ranked team. The first was over Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic and the second was over Wisconsin at home. Tonight’s win was over one of the most unlikely ranked foes we have ever faced. This week is only the second week since 1969 that Northwestern has been in the AP top 25 and it was the first time the Wildcats have EVER played Purdue as a ranked team in 172 meetings. Even without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey (out with an illness) there was concern because this is a very good team that is likely going to the NCAA Tournament.
The Boilers got off to a slow start with only two points in the first four minutes, but from there proceeded to blow the doors off of Northwestern. Purdue played like a team that was angry after Sunday’s loss. The perimeter defense was awful Sunday as the Cornhuskers shot 9 of 17 from long range (52.9%). Tonight Northwestern missed its first 10 three-point attempts and often had little room to even get off a long range attempt. By the time Sanjay Lumpkin hit Northwestern’s first three of the game there was only five minutes left and Purdue was ahead by 22.
The second half was more even, but Purdue closed the first half with 43 points in 16 minutes. It started splashing threes left and right as the Wildcats sold out to double-team the paint. Eventually, even that didn’t work. Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan wore them down. Vince Edwards had a career high five three-pointers as good Vince returned, while Swanigan had a pedestrian (if that is even possible) 24 and 16 to set the school record for most double-doubles in a season.
And Purdue’s defense was also huge tonight. Bryant McIntosh had an excellent game, but we held them to 35% shooting from the floor and 14.3% from three. You’re going to win a lot of games when you do that.
We’re 23 games into the season with at least 10 to go. We know what this team is. When the inside-out game works like this and everything is in sync Purdue is virtually impossible to beat for most teams. The perimeter defense is also a key piece. It wasn’t there on Sunday, Purdue struggled with the double-team inside, and turnovers were a major issue in a tight game that should have been tight if the defense had been better. Tonight we saw very good Purdue. When this Purdue team is playing it is incredibly hard to beat.
And by this Purdue team I mean the one where all rotation guys are playing in a fluid rotation. Ryan Cline wasn’t hitting, but he had a career high 6 assists. Vince Edwards was on fire from outside. Haas struggled hitting shots, but was still an undefendable monster. Dakota Mathias had another quiet 13 points.
Now we’re on to the biggest game of the season at Maryland. A win would not only claw Purdue back into the Big Ten race, but it would give the Boilers the tiebreaker over both Wisconsin and Maryland for the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. If Purdue wins it needs only one Maryland and two Wisconsin losses to have a chance at a 23rd Big Ten title, and at least one of those three things is guaranteed to happen when Maryland goes to Madison.
A second straight win over a ranked team, this one coming on the road, would also be huge for Purdue’s seeding in March. As I said earlier this week: We can piss and moan about Sunday or go out and do something about it.
Tonight Purdue did something about it against a very, very good Northwestern team.