In a matchup where basketball wasn’t even close to the most important part of the night, the Wildcats won 63-60 in a double overtime thriller against the Purdue Boilermakers. After a tragic shooting at Purdue earlier today, Welsh-Ryan fell silent before the game in honor of those affected.
Students shed their shirts and painted “Stand with Purdue” on their chests and stood at attention for the entire game.
“Everyone here at Northwestern, our program, is thinking about Purdue,” head coach Chris Collins said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone over there.”
Welsh-Ryan didn’t stay silent long, however, when the fans erupted into cheering when the ‘Cats sent the game to both overtime periods.
The ‘Cats went down early but kept up with Purdue the entire way, only letting their deficit reach seven points in the first half. Coming out of the locker room, Northwestern still trailed but eventually tied it up and sent the game to overtime.
“It’s competing,” senior Drew Crawford said. “It’s fighting. And that’s something that we’ve really embraced.”
Finally, in the beginning second extra period, Northwestern took its first lead of the game when Crawford nailed a jumper, sending the student section into a long-awaited frenzy. In typical 2014 Wildcats basketball fashion, they were able to pull off the double-overtime win with just 63 points.
The JerShon Cobb-Drew Crawford-Tre Demps trio led Northwestern with 53 combined points, 84 percent of the team’s total. These three have carried the team the whole season, and tonight was no exception.
Demps was especially effective when the game was on the line, hitting a few huge shots.
“The game really just slows down at that point,” Demps said. “It really becomes simple.”
Purdue’s perimeter shooting neutralized the Northwestern comeback early in the second half. Several times, the ‘Cats looked like they were finally going to take the lead, but the Boilermakers cooled them off quickly, shooting 38.1 percent from downtown and 27.6 percent overall.
“They hit big three after big three,” Collins said. “We were having a hard time guarding their big man, but our kids were resilient. It was a big win for us. I’m so proud of our guys.”
As has been usual for Collins’s squad, the team defense was a strong tonight. They were able to force 14 turnovers, while only committing nine. But, they had trouble stopping the three-point game, on which Purdue capitalized. But it wasn’t quite enough to seal the deal.
Center A.J. Hammonds led Purdue with 17 points. The Johnson brothers were particularly effective from three, hitting a combined 5-of-10. Purdue will continue on to Madison, where they will play Wisconsin Saturday.
For Northwestern, this was its third win in its last four games, marking a huge turnaround after its 67-93 loss at Iowa. In Collins’s first year, he has been able to come up with some big wins against Illinois and at Indiana. Tonight, he continued that trend. The ‘Cats were never down by more than seven, and they played tough, despite Purdue’s three-point effectiveness. With all the momentum gained from tonight, Northwestern plays emerging power Iowa at home this Saturday, looking to avenge its Jan. 9 loss.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Crawford said. “It really was a fight tonight. It wasn’t pretty at times. All that didn’t matter because the buzzer went off and we were victorious.”
- Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb: These two combined for 34 points including 11 rebounds in the 63-60 victory against Purdue. The veterans really showed up tonight with their grit and athleticism, as they have the entire season. Crawford has continued his leadership role this year, and Cobb has really stepped up in his third active season. Crawford’s hustle is unparalleled on this team and both the fans and his teammates are able to feed off him.
- The fans: On a sobering day of tragedy not only for Purdue but for the whole country, NU fans showed their class by coming out with the message “Stand with Purdue” painted on their chests. Standing the whole game, they showed their passion for the Wildcats while also remaining respectful to the Boilermakers. The rest of the fans really got into the game down the stretch, especially in the two overtimes. The atmosphere was electric.
- Tre Demps: He drained a three pointer to tie the game up with three minutes to go. He has really come into his own of late, and finished this game with 19 points and four rebounds. He had a lot of big hustle plays down the stretch, drawing some fouls. In overtime, he hit a clutch three that tied it at 51, sending the game to its second overtime.
- Three point percentage: Northwestern shot an abysmal 16.7 percent from three-point land. Statistically, the ‘Cats were pretty even with Purdue, except in three-point percentage. They made eight threes, which really hurt when Northwestern was trying to make its comeback.
- Where’s the rest of the team on offense?: Besides Crawford, Cobb and Demps, the rest of the team was nonexistent, only scoring ten points. The only other players who scored anything were Sanjay Lumpkin, who had six points, and Alex Olah, who had four.
- Momentum: The ‘Cats are firing on all cylinders as they play Iowa Saturday. The Hawkeyes, however, have just as much momentum, which could lead up to a big letdown. But the fact that that is one of the duds is a good sign. There was a lot to like tonight. The rest of Northwestern’s schedule is pretty tough, following the Iowa matchup with games against Wisconsin and Minnesota.