Purdue traveled home following an extremely frustrating loss against Maryland on Tuesday. The Boilermakers bounced by with a win over Northwestern by a score of 75-70.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Matt Painter’s team as Northwestern scrapped for much of the game to make it a closely contested ballgame.
Things started off as a blowout when Purdue bolted out to a 9-1 lead early on, moving like a well-oiled machine on both sides of the ball. Later on, Jaden Ivey hit a three-pointer to extend Purdue’s lead to 13 at the 2:53 mark of the first half before Northwestern went on a 12-2 run to make the score 35-32 heading into the break. Ivey was in a groove in the first half scoring 14 of his game-high 20 points on 4-8 shooting and grabbing 5 rebounds.
The second half was a largely back and forth battle with Purdue keeping the lead throughout but not without some scares. The freshmen front-court tandem of Mason Gillis and Zach Edey were huge down the stretch especially when Trevion Williams was in foul trouble and played just 16 minutes. The game looked to be all but done with 52 seconds left and a 70-59 lead for Purdue, then the inability to get the ball inbounds and sloppy ballhandling let Northwestern go on a 6-0 run. However, it was not enough as the Boilermakers went a sizzling 23-24 from the free-throw line on the night and were able to sneak out of Mackey Arena with a win.
The Wildcats’ response to these Purdue runs was the story of the game. Every time the Boilermakers would get on a roll, a sloppy couple of sequences would allow Northwestern to get right back in it. Eventually, the Boilers were able to ice the game.
This should have been a game that Purdue wins by 20 or more, but it will give those fantastic four freshmen a lot of valuable late Big Ten game experience for later on in the season. They passed this test with flying colors as well, combining for 53 of Purdue’s 75 points on the day.
Zach Edey scored in double figures for the first time since December 12th against Indiana State posting a double-double with 12 points (8-8 from the free-throw line) and 11 rebounds not to mention being a force defensively swatting away 4 shots on the night. He had some struggles recently and was not asked of much with Trevion Williams dominating, but it is reassuring to know if Williams gets in foul trouble, Edey can go to work.
The redshirt freshmen for Matt Painter had great showings as well, with Mason Gillis and Brandon Newman combing for 21 points on 8-11 shooting including 5 makes from downtown.
Tonight’s contest was also the return of the sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic after testing positive for COVID-19. He came off the bench and was limited to 15 minutes tonight, but expect as he is able to get his conditioning back up that he will return to his normal form.
You can see each guy’s confidence keep growing and growing as the season progresses, a promising sign for Matt Painter and the coaching staff with the end of the year and postseason coming in just over a month.
Purdue will have an opportunity to make a run in Big Ten play coming up including a rematch on the road against Minnesota on Thursday night, followed by matchups against Michigan State, Nebraska, and Penn State. The Boilermakers stand at 13-7 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play.