By SAM KLEMET
A 37-point loss at home to your arch rival is alarming. Following it up by getting shellacked by a team that entered the weekend with a 3-6 conference record can only be described as embarrassing.
Purdue (11-11, 4-5) fell 75-60 at Northwestern (13-10, 4-6). It’s the Boilers second loss in a row after a stretch in which they won four of five.
Matt Painter called out his team’s effort several times following Wednesday’s beatdown by Indiana, but the message obviously didn’t sink in.
Even before the game started, Purdue showed a lack of focus. Standout freshman A.J. Hammons, who was coming off a 30-point effort against the Hooisers, was late to the team bus and didn’t start. Northwestern took advantage.
The Wildcats took control from the opening tip, Saturday, starting the game up 10-0. Painter was so incensed with his team’s early effort he called a timeout just over a minute into the game to try to spark a fire. Painter was looking everywhere and at everyone for some level of enthusiasm, playing eleven guys in the first nine minutes. The match didn’t strike.
Purdue never led. Not for a minute. Not for a second. Never.
Northwestern hit eleven of its first 15 shots, led by Reggie Hearn. The junior scored 21 of his game-high 26 points before halftime and started the game nine of nine from the floor.
The Wildcats ended the first half with a 43-29 edge. In its last two games, Purdue has given up a total of 90 points by halftime.
The second half wasn’t much kinder to the Boilers. Northwestern ballooned the lead to 21 with 12:56 to play. One of the few bright spots for Purdue was a seven point trip down the floor to cut the deficit to 14, but they could never get within single digits.
Besides the disciplinary action, A.J. Hammons continued his strong freshman season. He scored 19 and grabbed 13 rebounds. D.J Byrd added 12 points and Anthony Johnson scored 11. The Boilers’ leading scorer, Terone Johnson, was just 3-11 for eight points and, as a team, Purdue shot just 33 percent.
Conversely, Northwestern connected on 53 percent of its shots, including 11-of-26 from 3-point range.
Now is gut-check time for this young Purdue team. The Boilermakers haven’t looked inspired since early in the first half against Indiana. They are likely headed to the NIT, but still need to prove not only that they can win, but can compete consistently in the conference.
The Boilers play their second straight road game, Tuesday, at Penn State. After that, two of their next three are against teams currently ranked in the top 15 – Michigan State and Indiana – and the other is against Illinois who will be looking to avenge a loss to Purdue in the conference opener.
There is still a lot of the season to play, but the Boilers need to prove they are willing to show up “ and preferably on time.
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