Men’s Basketball: History made: Northwestern downs No. 1 Purdue in epic 64-58 comeback


Alyce Brown/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior guard Boo Buie attempts a shot. Buie finished with a game-high 26 points in Northwestern’s 64-58 upset victory over No. 1 Purdue.

Alex Cervantes, Senior Staffer

It’s been 10 years since Northwestern played a game against the nation’s No. 1 team. The Wildcats (18-7, 9-5 Big Ten) entered Sunday’s contest 0-19 all-time in meetings against the country’s top dog. 

But NU is winless against a No.1 team no more. Propelled by a furious 17-3 comeback in the game’s final four minutes, the Cats secured the program’s first win over an AP No. 1 team, beating the Boilermakers (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten) 64-58. 

“One of the reasons I wanted to come here was you have the opportunity to create historical things,” coach Chris Collins said. “How often in your life do you have an opportunity to create history?”

A decade ago, Bill Carmody was leading his final season in Evanston and Reggie Hearn was the team’s only double-digit scorer. NU’s three current captains — redshirt senior guard Chase Audige, senior guard Boo Buie and senior forward Robbie Beran — were middle schoolers, and Collins was still an assistant coach at Duke.

When the Cats journeyed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Jan. 30, 2013, the No. 1 Wolverines shellacked Carmody’s squad 68-46. Michigan, led by National Player of the Year guard Trey Burke, would go onto a national championship appearance. The Cats, meanwhile, closed the 2012-13 campaign with just one win in February and March combined. Carmody was axed, Collins was hired and the rest is history. 

Fast forward 10 years, and the similarities between that fateful 2013 meeting and Sunday’s NU’s clash with No. 1 Purdue are striking. 

The Boilermakers boast the prospective National Player of the Year in junior center Zach Edey. They sit alone atop the Big Ten standings and are seemingly poised for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament — though nothing is a given in March. 

Similar to Carmody, Collins entered the season in the hot seat. However, unlike his predecessor, Collins has the Cats in the thick of a contested Big Ten race. 

Sunday’s clash between NU and Purdue had all the makings of a game which could mirror the result 10 years prior. 

It didn’t.

“(The pregame message) was like, ‘Guys, we can do it,’” Collins said. “‘We’re gonna have to rebound the ball. We’re gonna have to fight. We’re gonna have to swarm Edey. We’re gonna have to rotate out of those double teams. We’re gonna have to do a lot of good things, but we can win. ’”

The X’s and O’s battle between the two teams was evident early, with the Cats throwing the kitchen sink at Edey, choosing to sacrifice perimeter defense in exchange for keeping the 7-foot-4-inch giant at relative bay. 

Collins has opted to double opposing bigs in the post all season, and Sunday was no different. Initially guarded by one of NU’s two frontcourt mainstays — junior center Matthew Nicholson or graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven — another defender was sent to wall up Edey. The plan was largely successful: Edey didn’t convert his first field goal attempt until the first half’s 7:29 mark. 

Still, the Cats’ defense was conceding open looks for Purdue guards and wings, who took full advantage. By the under-eight media timeout, the Boilermakers were 5-of-9 from distance. 

During the final seven minutes of the half, Purdue’s offensive success tilted back in favor of its talisman. Edey rattled off nine points, five of which came from the free throw line, to carry the Boilermakers into halftime with a 37-30 advantage.

In many respects, NU was lucky the deficit wasn’t greater at the intermission. Purdue missed all five of its three-point attempts to close the half, while offensively NU was struggling to get anything resembling scoring from players outside of Buie, who had 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting at halftime.

“My whole mentality—  every game — is just to go win,” Buie said. “Play as hard as I can to support my teammates, try to make the right play.”

Upon returning to the court, the Cats put on an admirable defensive stand to limit the Boilermakers, but it long proved futile due to the lack of offensive production.

NU was plagued by severe shooting woes for nearly the entire second frame. There seemed to be a lid on the basket affecting Audige in particular. 

“We need him to be aggressive,” Collins said of Audige’s early shooting struggles. “I’m okay with him and Boo (taking) 36 shots combined, that’s great. … Take good shots and take them with confidence, that’s the whole thing.”

With the offense so reliant on his and Buie’s production, Audige’s marked struggles from the field throughout the first 35 minutes seemed to be dooming NU’s upset bid. His pull-up jumpers and catch-and-shoot triples seemed to catch every part of the rim, but never fell through.

Collins said Audige may be “a little wacky” at times, yet he remains confident in the selection of shots his lead guards were getting — they, Audige especially, just needed to see the ball go through the net.

“Shots were feeling good, but it just wasn’t going in,” Audige said. “Even though I had that stretch at the end, Boo kept us in it the whole time. He was really the man.”

Nevertheless, Buie’s Herculean effort kept the Cats within striking distance. When the mountain seemed too tall to climb — including the one in white, gold and black towering over everyone — it took just one shot from Audige to kickstart one of the most important closes in NU men’s basketball history.

Coming out of the final media timeout, Purdue held a 55-47 lead and Audige was 2-of-11 from the field. Audige said he “couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean” up until that point. It didn’t matter.

Although junior guard Ty Berry’s three-point attempt careened off the rim, Buie corralled the rebound and found Audige open in the left corner. Audige buried the ensuing triple, then followed up that shot with a steal and dunk in transition. Welsh-Ryan Arena ignited in a cacophony of cheers as Boilermaker coach Matt Painter called timeout to calm his troops. 

Audige’s five-point spurt was briefly broken by a pair of free throws from Purdue freshman guard Braden Smith. From then on, though, it was all Cats. 

Receiving a handoff from Nicholson, Audige nailed the pull-up mid-range jumper to make it 57-54. Soon after, sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer, whose playing time was mired by foul trouble for much of the game, canned two crucial free throws to trim the deficit to just one point with 2:33 to play. He then forced a turnover on Edey, the most pivotal of the big man’s six cough-ups. 

Barnhizer’s impactful 60-second stretch closed with an assist to rival few others in magnitude. 

With the shot clock winding down, the Indiana native caught a baseline bounce pass from Audige. He paused for a brief moment before turning and shoveling a pass to Audige for a three-pointer. 


In two minutes, Audige had poured in 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He went from ice cold to scorching hot, from the scapegoat to the hero. 

Meanwhile, Buie filled up the stat sheet, finishing with a game-high 26 points, four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals. NU’s defense was equally stellar, holding a top-10 offense to 58 points, 36.2% shooting from the field and 22.7% shooting from beyond the arc. It all coalesced into one of the greatest performances in program history. 

“There’s always been a lot of talk about how we can’t close,” Collins said. “This is a different year, a different team and a great testament to our guys.”

History was made Sunday. And it was done on the backs of a team reinvigorated, a team inspired and just maybe, a team of destiny.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

Related Stories:

Rapid Recap: Northwestern 64, No. 1 Purdue 58

Northwestern men’s basketball gets its revenge against Ohio State

Northwestern’s B-Team of Buie, Barnhizer and Beran carry Cats to victory