Tuesday, March 28

Purdue Men’s Basketball: Feeling like home, Boilers win at Northwestern

EVANSTON, Illinois – Boilermaker fans created a home-away-from-home atmosphere in Welsh-Ryan Arena Wednesday night as they drove almost three hours to watch their No. 5 Purdue men’s basketball win, 70-64.

Purdue (23-4, 12-4 Big Ten) took the victory in front of the mixed sea of purple and black, using the post and slashing layup attempts to work past a Northwestern (10-12, 5-10 Big Ten) team looking to continue to find a direction in head coach Chris Collins’s eighth season. With a Rutgers victory over Illinois, the Boilers now sit atop the Big Ten standings at 12-4, a half game ahead of the Illini and the Badgers who are 11-4.

Even as it couldn’t find ways of their own to score rhythmic buckets on the offensive end, Purdue’s ability to quickly react on the defensive end allowed for deflected passes and, eventually, steals on the perimeter.

“Our guys did a really good job of trying to be active,” head coach Matt Painter said. “(Northwestern) runs a lot of really good plays on offense that can put you in a bind, especially when you’re on offense. We just tried to switch it up as much as we could to slow that down.”

Patient passes from senior center Trevion Williams in the post led to four more open long range attempts in the second half, carefully waiting for rotating Northwestern defenders to bite on off-ball drives from Boilermaker guards and leave open shooters on the perimeter. Sophomore forward Mason Gillis continued to shine from the 3-point line with the help of Williams, hitting all three of his first three long-range attempts as Northwestern forwards dove to guard sophomore guard Jaden Ivey.

The Boilermakers continued to work through 7-foot-4-inch center Zach Edey in the post for easy attempts, passing him the ball in the post seemingly whenever he was under the basket. Edey leads the team with 14 points as he worked past 6-foot-10-inch forward Pete Nance, 6-foot-7-inch forward Elyjah Williams and 6-foot-10-inch center Ryan Young for contested layups.

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“(Edey) is so big, he makes it tough for people to score,” Painter said. “(Northwestern) was really bottling him up, but he stuck with them.

”He had a couple stretches there where he looked exhausted, but I thought he played well regardless.”

When players constantly play and practice for almost a month, Painter said, they bound to experience some exhaustion and have off nights.

”I’ve played with Glenn Robinson,” Painter said. “He was the best player in the country, and even he had tough days.

”Everyone has tough days. It’s what you do to work through them that matters most.”

Northwestern fans noisily booed and taunted Purdue’s players in an attempt to drown out their names as they were read off the starting lineup.

Just as they had so many times back home, Purdue fans did not let that go without a response.

The well-traveled Purdue faithful cut into Northwestern’s crowd with cheering and chants of their own, creating an environment that almost matched that of a typical game in Mackey Arena.

Loud chants of “Let’s go Boilers” filled the arena from the second level as a sea of gold and black competed with the purple and white on the first floor. The crowd seemed to cheer almost as loudly for a Purdue bucket as a Northwestern one, again drowning out the PA announcer with every made bucket.

Even as Wildcat fans and cheerleaders tried to respond with a “let’s go Wildcats” chant of their own, the energy from the Northwestern fans started to slow down with every extra made Boilermaker shot. Cheers turned to outraged boos as the Boilermakers started to force more contact on the interior, moves Northwestern fans hoped would end with foul calls in their favor.

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Northwestern celebrated “90’s night” at Welsh-Ryan Arena, blaring 90’s classics from Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and more over the loudspeakers as a packed Northwestern crowd loudly sang along. Northwestern defensive lineman Joe Spivak read off 90’s-related trivia as helped introduce short mini-games during timeouts.

Wildcat fans rose in a standing ovation as a fan officially proposed during a timeout in the second half. The fan beamed with pride as he looked into the roaring crowd, hugging his now-fiancé as fans cheered in their support.

Purdue will face Rutgers in Mackey Arena this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FS1.


• Purdue improved to 23-4 overall and 12-4 in the Big Ten with a 70-64 road win at Northwestern. The Boilermakers finished an eight-game in 21-day stretch with a 7-1 record, and have won eight of their nine game overall.

• The win was Purdue’s 11th straight over Northwestern, now tied for the second-longest winning streak over one opponent (Valparaiso – 12). The 134 series wins are the most against a single opponent.

• Purdue’s 27-game start of 23-4 is the best 27-game start since the 2009-10 team started 24-3. A win over Rutgers would match Purdue’s best 28-game start since the 1987-88 season.

• The win was Purdue’s eighth quad-1 victory of the season, now tied for third nationally.

• Purdue is 10-3 against teams ranked in the KenPom top 60.

• Purdue’s 23 wins are the third most nationally behind Murray State (24) and Auburn (24).

• Purdue has held two straight opponents to 0.91 points / possession. Prior to this stretch, Purdue had held just two Big Ten opponents under 1.00 (Iowa, Nebraska).

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• Northwestern shot just 35.0 percent from the field, the lowest mark for a Big Ten opponent and the lowest mark since Butler shot 32.2 percent on Dec. 18.

• Purdue has held its last two opponents to 62.5 points per game.

• Purdue has now won 12 league games for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. Currently, no other team has more than five, 12-win seasons in that span (Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin have five each).

• Zach Edey scored 14 points with eight rebounds and a career-high tying four assists. Edey has 24 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists over 44 minutes in the last two games.

• Mason Gillis added 11 points and seven rebounds. During his career, Purdue is 9-1 when he scores in double-figures and 13-2 when he makes multiple 3-pointers.

• Eric Hunter Jr., added 11 points and four rebounds, going 1-of-2 from long distance. Hunter Jr., is now averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting 18-of-31 (.581) from long distance in Big Ten play.

– Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.

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