Purdue celebrated '80s Night at Welsh-Ryan Arena by scoring 85 points against Northwestern, the most points the ‘Cats have allowed against them this year, handing NU its third loss of the season with the game's 85-71 final.
Purdue (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten) extended its win streak to seven straight games, while Northwestern (12-3, 1-2 Big Ten) suffered its third loss in its last five games after starting the year 10-0.
Northwestern’s largest lead was by two points with 3:12 minutes left in the first quarter. After Purdue's April Wilson put her team up 14-13 with a layup with 2:04 minutes in the first frame, Purdue never trailed again. NU's Maggie Lyon tied the score at 21 with a pair of free throws in the second quarter, but Purdue ran away with it from there, eventually mounting a 20-point fourth quarter lead.
Entering the game, Northwestern had a stranglehold in the Big Ten Conference in the turnover ratio category. The Wildcats’ +9.8 margin was nearly twice as high as the second-place team. Indeed, Northwestern’s 10.9 turnovers per game average was good for second in the entire country.
Tonight, things were different. Northwestern committed 21 turnovers, the most for the team's season. Purdue had 15 turnovers, a -6.0 margin. The NU team's previous season-high for turnovers in a game was 17.
Northwestern gave Purdue easy chances and the visitors capitalized. The Boilermakers scored 19 points off of turnovers and 14 fast break points, seven and eight more than the Wildcats tallied in those respective categories.
Junior Christen Inman appropriately called her team’s miscues “uncharacteristic.”
“We’ve been focusing on keeping [turnovers] down throughout the year,” she said. “We’re going to bounce back, and that’s definitely not going to become a trend for us.”
“I’m just really disappointed in the way we played tonight,” Head Coach Joe McKeown said. “We made bad decisions; we turned the ball over; we did a lot of things that were not like us. It’s not us, basically.”
Many Wildcat stalwarts played uncharacteristically poor games, especially when stacked up against the balanced attack of the Boilermakers. Five Purdue players ended the night in double-digit scoring, and four of them had at least five assists, rebounds or both. Guard Andreona Keys epitomized the Boilermakers’ balance with a final line of 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block.
For Northwestern Lyon led the way with a game-high of 24 points and a team-best eight boards. Nia Coffey finished with 22 points, but 15 of those came in the second half after she was forced to sit for much of the first due to early foul trouble. The Big Ten’s leading rebounder also only managed six boards, half of her normal average.
But perhaps most surprising was the performance of NU's Ashley Deary. After a standout game against Nebraska where she came fairly close to a triple-double and committed only two turnovers, the junior experienced the opposite end of the spectrum against Purdue. Her nine points were a season-low; her three helpers were tied for a season-low, and her ten turnovers were twice her previous season-high.
Despite the rough outing, Deary’s coach said he still has utmost confidence in his standout point guard.
“She’s a great player, so she’ll bounce back. I have no doubt about that,” McKeown said confidently.
Despite his visible frustration, McKeown remained upbeat about his team’s season overall.
“We’re sitting here 12-3, and we’ve positioned ourselves to have a great year,” the veteran head coach said.
It has most definitely been a good year so far, but Northwestern seems to have hit a rough patch in the road, and the Wildcats’ travels will not get any easier with trips to Michigan State and Maryland bookending a home date with Ohio State. Northwestern has rebounded from both of its previous losses this season with emphatic wins and will look to do that again against the Spartans on Sunday..