Jan. 15, 2009
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EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern buried six of its first eight 3-point field goal attempts to build a commanding 13-point halftime lead but could not withstand a furious comeback by No. 19 Purdue, which escaped Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 63-61 victory Thursday night.
Coming out of a timeout with 8.8 seconds remaining, Purdue worked the ball down low to JaJuan Johnson, who was fouled on his way to the rim. Johnson was true on both free throws and a last-second heave by NU's Craig Moore was on line but fell short as the clock expired.
"Everything we asked our guys to do, they did," Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. "I thought we defended very well and stole the ball. I thought we executed very well on offense. We just missed too many layups and missed too many foul shots that would have salted the game away.
"I give Purdue credit, their guys came through when they had to come through. But it's a hard one."
NU led by 10 with 7:50 to play when Purdue ratcheted up its defense and began a furious comeback. Robbie Hummel scored on consecutive possessions with just over two minutes remaining to bring the Boilers even at 58, capping a 14-4 run.
The Wildcats regained a one-point lead on a Craig Moore free throw, but Purdue's Keaton Grant put the visitors ahead by two with a minute remaining on a deep three.
Junior Kevin Coble then converted a layup off a halfcourt lob pass to bring the 'Cats even. NU got the steal it was hoping for on the next possession, but a fast-break layup by Jeremy Nash rolled off the rim, setting up the winning free throws by Johnson.
Coble and Moore paced Northwestern (8-6, 0-4) with 16 points apiece, as Moore connected on four 3-pointers in his 38 minutes of action. Hummel led the Boilermakers with 15 points while Johnson added 13 points and seven blocked shots.
It appeared the Wildcats would have a chance to put the game away from the free throw line when they entered the bonus scenario with more than 13 minutes to play. But Purdue kept its foul situation under control the rest of the way and limited Northwestern to 26 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
Before NU got hot from long range, it was primarily Northwestern's stingy defense in the first half that vaulted the 'Cats to a double-digit lead. In the opening 4:30 of the game, Purdue (13-4, 2-2) made just one of its first five field goal attempts and turned the ball over five times.
Purdue was coaxed into 22 turnovers for the game compared to just eight by Northwestern.
NU, meanwhile, used 3-pointers by Moore and Luka Mirkovic and a driving layup by Coble to build a 12-4 advantage. On the next NU possession, Mirkovic connected on a baseline jumper to put the Wildcats up by 10 and force a Purdue timeout.
After the Boilermakers closed the gap to five at 14-9, point guard Michael Thompson found the scoring touch for Northwestern. He got in among the trees for a layup and hit a three on the ensuing possession before being forced to sit with two personal fouls. An early foul in the second half again limited floor time for Thompson, who finished with six points and three assists.
NU received a boost off the bench in the first half by Ivan Peljusic. The sophomore scored off a post-up down low and followed it with a 3-pointer from the wing. After another NU stop, Coble connected on another three to put the Wildcats up 32-20 with 3:40 remaining before halftime before taking a 13-point lead to the locker room.
Northwestern faces a quick turnaround with another home game at 1 p.m. Sunday vs. Minnesota.