Men’s Basketball: Rebounding, defensive struggles send Northwestern to 87-77 loss to Purdue

Dan Ryan

Northwestern (15-9, 5-7) travelled to Purdue (16-9, 6-6) on Sunday looking to claw back to a .500 conference record and secure a four-game conference winning streak for the first time since 1967.

The Boilermakers were not so accommodating.

Despite senior forward John Shurna’s game-high 30 points, the Wildcats fell to the Boilermakers 87-77 in West Lafayette, Ind., snapping NU’s winning streak and leaving the Cats stranded with one road win in conference play this season.

“It’s always harder away from home, and this team tries to disrupt you,” coach Bill Carmody said. “We had turnovers in the first half that we shouldn’t have, and it just didn’t seem like we were hitting on all cylinders offensively.”

Last week against Iowa, balanced scoring spurred NU to victory as five starters recorded double-digit point totals. Despite having four starters in double figures Sunday, NU was unable to keep pace with a hot Purdue squad that shot 47.8 percent from beyond the arc.

“John and Drew didn’t have great first halves shooting the ball,” Carmody said. “But both of them came alive in the second half. We just weren’t getting stops. We were trying to go back and forth, trying to figure it out. We just didn’t seem to have any luck keeping our bodies in front of some of their guards.”

As was the case in the previous meetings between the two teams, guard Lewis Jackson tore up the Cats’ defense, forcing the zone to collapse and then finding his teammates on the outside for open looks.

“Same thing he did in the last game,” Carmody said. “He penetrated the left side there and he dropped Hummel in the corner. We just didn’t have an answer for it. We worked on it, we tell them about it, but he’s a pretty talented kid.”

Jackson finished the game with just 5 points, but his 8 assists helped power the Boilermakers past the Cats.

Making matters worse for NU, Purdue exploited the Cats’ decision to go with a small lineup, gathering seven offensive rebounds in the first eight minutes of the game alone.

“They had 13 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Carmody said. “You go small, that’s what happens sometimes.”

After scoring a combined 57 points in the first half, both offenses exploded in the second, trading drained threes and driving to the basket on almost every possession. The Cats kept pace with the Boilermakers until a late run by Purdue, combined with a few key defensive stops, finally ended NU’s hopes of pulling out the victory.

During the late comeback attempt, junior forward Drew Crawford was called on a questionable charging foul, and the junior responded by throwing the ball down on the court in frustration. The call was reversed upon review, but Crawford was given a technical foul, his second of the contest, and ejected from the game.

Crawford’s outburst did little to reverse the Cats’ fortunes as the game slipped away from them late.

NU continues its tour of Indiana this week, travelling to Bloomington to take on Indiana on Wednesday.

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