Northwestern dropped another heartbreaker Saturday afternoon, this time to Purdue, to fall to 2-6 in Big Ten play. After a back-and-forth game for all 40 minutes, Shurna’s desperation three-point attempt was way off as time expired and Purdue escaped with a 58-56 win.
21 - Purdue had 21 points off of turnovers compared to only four for Northwestern. Purdue was able to force so many turnovers due to its defensive pressure all game long that prevented Northwestern from getting in a rhythm offensively. Northwestern should have been able to counter with backdoor cuts - the specialty of the Princeton offense - but they never came. The result was plenty of missed opportunities and an offense that did not live up to its normal standards.
14 - Northwestern had 14 more rebounds than Purdue which was surprising considering NU’s weakness on the boards all season. What helped this the most was the fact that Purdue is very similar to Northwestern as it also employs a small lineup, so the Boilermakers were not able to take advantage of Northwestern's lack of size. A normal team would have exploited the fact that Luka Mirkovic was sidelined for the entire game with an injury.
6 - Northwestern primarily relied on six players for Saturdays game. Nick Fruendt did see the court but only for the last few seconds of the first half, and with Cobb and Mirkovic out with injuries Northwestern's thin lineup got even thinner. Purdue on the other hand had several capable guards that rotated in an out, keeping many of them fresh and rested. Eight Purdue players were in the game for at least eleven minutes, and this advantage for the Boilermakers allowed them to pressure Northwestern the whole game and force turnovers. We have to wonder if the lack of rest affected Northwestern's offense; with a fresher lineup in the game, NU would probably not have been so sloppy and the lack of depth may very well have cost the 'Cats a victory.
Sixth man of the game: Anthony Johnson
Johnson played only 11 minutes, but he made his presence known in limited action. His first three-point basket came at the buzzer to end the first half. The bucket sent the Boilermakers into the locker room with some momentum, which was hard to come by in this back-and-forth contest.
His next and last three came in the second half with just under 12 minutes remaining. The basket cut Northwestern's lead from four to one and prevented the ‘Cats from getting on any sort of roll. The packed crowd at Welsh-Ryan was waiting to explode the whole night and put away the Boilermakers, but Johnson’s big threes helped prevent that from happening.
Play of the game:
This one’s pretty obvious. Robbie Hummel’s floater on the baseline with eight seconds remaining gave Purdue the lead and the win. Hummel didn’t have a great game, scoring only 11 points, but every team needs a go-to guy that can deliver down the stretch and Hummel is clearly that guy for Purdue.
Northwestern then needed to go the length of the court to tie or win and Carmody immediately called a timeout. This allowed Purdue to set up their defense – which had been good the whole game – and Shurna was forced into taking a bad shot. It's likely that if Carmody hadn't called a timeout, instead catching Purdue off-guard, the 'Cats could have come up with a better attempt on their final play.
Where does Northwestern stand?
It’s officially panic time for Northwestern as they now sit at 11th in the conference standings. After the Michigan State game, I thought that they needed to win three of their next four games, but they have instead lost three in a row. Even Nebraska, which has been playing better lately, is not an easy win and we have to wonder if Northwestern can regroup after their last few games. The schedule isn’t easy from here on out and all signs point to another year in the NIT. Northwestern will have to significantly turn things around if they want to make the Big Dance for the first time in school history.