Men’s Basketball: Northwestern dominated by Purdue down low

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

It was a rough night for Northwestern all around, but the Wildcats frontcourt in particular struggled Saturday in NU’s 68-60 loss to Purdue.

The Boilermakers’ center duo of junior A.J. Hammons and freshman Isaac Haas forms one of the best frontcourts in the Big Ten, and it dominated the Cats’ frontline throughout the game.

The 7-foot Hammons posted 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting along with nine rebounds. Haas, who stands at 7-foot-2, came off the bench for 10 points, needing only two field goal attempts to get there. The freshman shot 6-of-8 at the foul line.

“They create a lot of foul opportunities,” coach Chris Collins said. “They do a great job with their schemes of getting them in areas in the middle of the paint. When a guy is in the middle, it’s hard to send help because they space well.”

Meanwhile, center Alex Olah fouled out in 23 minutes, scoring just 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting. The 7-footer also grabbed just one rebound.

“We just want to get their centers concerned about our centers instead of vice versa,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

Last season, Olah had success against the Boilermakers, scoring 14 points and seven rebounds in a win at Mackey Arena.

“I thought their physicality bothered Alex,” Collins said. “Give credit to their big guys. They’re hard to play against because they’re huge. And they’re like battering rams. They put a lot of pressure.”

The backups didn’t add much either. Graduate student Jeremiah Kreisberg and freshman forward Gavin Skelly combined for 4 points, four rebounds and seven fouls.

The sheer size and physicality of Purdue’s frontcourt got NU into foul trouble early. Every member of NU’s frontcourt was whistled for multiple fouls in the first half, including three for Skelly in just five minutes of playing time.

“Any time you can get big guys in foul trouble and they don’t get off to a good start, I think you have an advantage,” Painter said. “With the combination of those two guys, we’re going to put people in tough spots.”

In the second half, the whistles weren’t as much of a problem until Olah picked up his fourth foul at the 10:26 mark. Still, from the start of the period Purdue continued to hold serve on the interior.

After Olah struggled defensively to start the second half, Collins pulled him for Kreisberg. Kreisberg didn’t provide the answer, so Collins turned back to Skelly.

After Skelly threw a pass from the elbow that sailed off the backboard and then was beat by Haas on the defensive end, Collins completed the cycle by putting in Olah.

When Olah came back in, the Boilermakers went straight to Haas on the right block. An overwhelmed Olah greeted Haas with a bear-hug for his third personal foul.

That was the way things went for NU.

By the end of the night, Olah, Kreisberg, Skelly and sophomore forward Sanjay Lumpkin each had more fouls than points.

“(The Boilermakers) have that two-headed monster,” Collins said. “They’re really a load to play against.”

Twitter: @Jesse_Kramer