The Purdue Boilermakers were able to keep their winning streak alive with a cardiac performance against the visiting Northwestern Wildcats 105-96 in overtime. Northwestern, who has enjoyed as much success as any other program in the B1G over the last several years, shot the ball as well as a team possibly could but couldn’t quite seal the deal as Boo Buie missed a floater at the end of regulation while his head coach lost his cool at the end of overtime.
Let’s get into ‘The Rebound!’
1 | Make It Difficult for Boo Buie
Well, Purdue did their best to make it difficult but the game just goes to show how good Buie can be in a big game situation. Buie was on another level from behind the arc going 7-11 but oftentimes hitting his threes over Purdue defenders. On one play, in fact, Buie hit a step back three over a jumping Edey late in the second half. The 5th year guard was able to get in rhythm from behind the arc as Purdue was very concerned with his ability to get into the lane and create chaos for the defense. That translated to him getting some clean looks that he obviously converted at a high level while also adding 8 assists and 5 rebounds.
Sometimes you tip your hat to a player who is a likely first team All American candidate. Purdue gave him too many good looks and didn’t do a particularly good job of fighting through ball screens to make it difficult for him. The saving grace in this regard was holding Buie to 0 points in overtime, a major component as to why Purdue was able to win.
2 | Don’t Turn the Ball Over
This didn’t start great as the Boilers had 7 turnovers in the first half but none of those came from Braden Smith. After that first half? Purdue turned the ball over only 3 times and is likely the number one reason why Purdue was able to grab a victory over a team that was playing at about as high a level as they could possibly play at. Northwestern was only able to generate 6 points off turnovers whereas in the previous game they scored 15 in that regard.
Smith was at his complete best against Northwestern in terms of protecting the ball and composing the offense like a maestro. The sophomore guard had 16 assists and flashed his ability to create his own shot late in the game on a layup where he was matched up against one of Northwestern’s frontcourt. The guard didn’t settle for a contested jumper and instead took the bigger defender off the dribble and surprised him by attacking the rim and not dribbling through.
The biggest key for the Boilers was that the guys who shouldn’t be turning the ball over quit turning the ball over. Other than Smith’s two turnovers he had in the 2nd half only Lance Jones had a turnover and that came in overtime. When that happens, it is really difficult to stop Purdue’s complex and efficient offense.
3 | Defend the 3pt Line and Force Northwestern into Contested Jump Shots
There were some times that Purdue just had to shrug their shoulders and give Northwestern shooters their props for hitting some really, really difficult shots. What Purdue didn’t do a good job of was running those shooters off the three point line and forcing them into mid range jump shots more often, especially Buie and Berry. Those two went a combined 13-21 from behind the arc and Purdue often struggled to get them off of their spots. Everyone else for Northwestern was just 1-7 shooting behind the arc.
It would have been a tough assignment as Northwestern shot 38-66 for 57.6% from the field for the whole game but in a game like that you would have rather them hit contested 2’s rather than open or semi-contested 3’s that they were clearly going to hit. Northwestern’s confidence was so high about their ability to generate open looks from three that in overtime they denied any three point attempt from Purdue which allowed Zach Edey to score at will inside. Northwestern just couldn’t keep up and the shots sort of went away from them in overtime as they went 1-3 from three while their overall field goals were supported by attacking the rim in an effort to extend the game after Loyer’s three put Purdue up by 6 with 32 seconds left. Purdue allowed them the shots to not give up an easy three point play.
Overall, not terrible but Purdue didn’t do a good job of really getting into the shooters and forcing Northwestern into spots they didn’t want to be in. It seemed as though Northwestern was just too comfortable on offense outside of a stretch in the first half where Purdue was able to go on a 15-2 run.
4 | Be Efficient and Maximize the Number of Possessions
Well, this was also about as good as you could hope for from an offensive stand point. Purdue scored 1.458 points per possession and had a 68.1% scoring percentage. The 1.458 points per possession is the fourth best percentage in school history and is a testament to how well the offense can work when it is being efficient. It also didn’t hurt that the Boilers again dominated the glass grabbing 36 rebounds to Northwestern’s 22. Northwestern had only 4 rebounds in the entire first half and although that can probably be attributed to both offenses hitting shot, holding an opponent to just 4 rebounds in a half is astounding. The Boilers also grabbed 12 offensive rebounds.
When you dominate the glass like Purdue did against Northwestern, it can mean the different in a close game. In this one, it was a determining factor.
Overall Grade: B
Just by looking at the grades, this probably fits given how well the offense operated and was able to score points while the defense seemed to struggle to string stops together outside of that 15-2 run in the first half. Purdue played well enough to win a game that they would probably have lost on the road given how poorly they shot free throws and allowed Northwestern’s offense to take advantage of them.
I also wanted to note that, even with the four freebies at the end thanks to Collins’ meltdown and Buie’s comments to a ref that got them both technical fouls, Purdue still would have scored 20 points in the five minute overtime. Purdue just seemed to turn to another gear in that overtime and that really allowed them to win that ballgame.
Purdue: 75 (105)
Northwestern: 67 (96)
Got the 8 point victory margin of victory (editor’s note: or did he? Purdue actually won by 9 but he was really close!) but that was certainly an offensive showing for both teams, other than the free throw percentage for Purdue. That was a bit surprising and likely Purdue wins by 10 or more in regular time if they hit them. Overall, can’t be upset at a victory against a team that just seems to play up to the Boilers. To their credit, Northwestern has been in that second tier of programs under Collins and they have lots to prove against the big dog on the block in the B1G over the last 6 to 7 years.
Player of the Game:
This is a tough one because on one hand you have Zach Edey going for another 30 and 15 night, his 13th career 30 and 10 game of his career. On the other hand, you have Lance Jones who scored 26 points and went 5-7 from behind the arc and literally kept Purdue in the game on multiple occasions and was the one to finally hit free throws at the end of the game (4-5 in overtime). Then, you also have Braden Smith who had 11 points and 16 assists with only 2 turnovers. So, who does it go to?
Lance Jones gets the nod as the transfer guard continues to be a shooter who rises to the moment more often times than not. Loyer had the single biggest shot of the game but Jones’ free throws in overtime and multiple big threes in regulation were the reasons Purdue was able to get a W.
Play of the Game:
With just 40 seconds left in overtime, Purdue clung to a 93-90 lead. Purdue needed a big bucket and once again it was Fletcher Loyer who delivered. With 8 seconds left on the shot clock, Mason Gillis skipped a pass to the left corner to Braden Smith who gave a shot fake and drove baseline. As the defense collapsed, Loyer elevated to the top of the key and Smith found him in rhythm to sink a big three to push the Boilers lead to 6.