Northwestern (17-10, 5-9 B1G) was overmatched inside by the 17th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers (21-6, 9-5 B1G) Tuesday night, eventually falling 71-61 in West Lafayette.
NBA prospect A.J. Hammons and 7'2" center Isaac Haas proved to be too much for the ‘Cats inside. Purdue had more offensive rebounds (19) than Northwestern did defensive rebounds (17), meaning the Boilermakers grabbed 53 percent of their available misses. Purdue also shot 28 free throws, 20 more than Northwestern did.
While the Wildcats struggled to match up on the inside, the backcourt stepped up its play. Tre Demps found a rhythm for his shot early on, converting two three-pointers in the first half. He led the team in scoring on the night with 16 points.
Bryant McIntosh helped carry the Wildcats in the early second half, scoring nine points and dishing out three assists in the period. With the Wildcats’ big men struggling, McIntosh led the team in rebounding for the game with five rebounds. He also finished with 14 points and four assists.
The first half was mostly dominated by Purdue. Haas scored four points and grabbed three boards in limited first-half minutes, and Hammons led all first-half scorers and rebounders with 11 points and eight boards. Their inside presence led also to early foul trouble for Northwestern. Alex Olah, Dererk Pardon, Joey van Zegeren and Gavin Skelly all committed two fouls by halftime.
Northwestern’s shooting was cold early in the game. They made just one of their first 10 three-point shots, and struggled with the defensive presence of Purdue’s bigs. With 1:08 left in the first half, the ‘Cats trailed by 14. However, a late run helped the ‘Cats cut the deficit to eight, 35-27, at the halfway mark.
Northwestern kept up their solid play in the early goings of the second half. They battled back and forth with the Boilermakers, cutting the lead to six with just over six minutes to play in the game. After Purdue answered with a pair of threes to push the lead to 12, the ‘Cats failed to come within reach again.
The early fouls proved to be costly for the Wildcats. By the eight-minute mark in the second half, Pardon had already fouled out, Skelly and Olah had four each and van Zegeren had three. While Olah began to find an offensive rhythm in the second half, his defensive play was hindered due to his four fouls. He finished the game with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting.
With the loss, Northwestern falls to 0-7 against ranked competition, with no currently ranked opponents left to play.
The Wildcats have an eight-day break, and they will return to competition Feb. 27 when they face Michigan in Ann Arbor. The game will air on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. CST.