Jan. 21, 2014
By Callie Counsellor
EVANSTON, Ill. -- It took two overtimes to decide and a Drew Crawford block as the final buzzer sounded, but Northwestern pulled out a thrilling 63-60 victory against Purdue on Tuesday night.
A trio of big players that willed NU to victory, but the night decidedly belonged to Crawford, who broke the program record for most games started, scored a team-high 19 points and made the game-saving play to emphatically end the night.
"More than anything, one of my goals, and I've said it all along, I want [Crawford] to have a special senior season," NU head coach Chris Collins said. "He's a great representation of what I want our program to be going forward."
JerShon Cobb was the hero of the first half for the Wildcats with nine points and three rebounds while Tre Demps owned the second half and much of overtime, finishing tied with Crawford with 19 points in the game.
The first half proved to be the Cobb and Crawford show for NU, as the two combined for 17 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Boilermakers had their own struggles at the offensive end, shooting 34.6 percent in the first half. Both teams went on short scoring streaks for the rest of the half to keep the score close, but NU never grabbed a lead while Purdue led by as much as seven before the break.
The second half started much like the first, with neither team hitting a basket until the 18:04 mark, when Sanjay Lumpkin tipped in an Alex Olah misfire that tied the game at 23-23.
Both teams continued to struggle on offense for much of the second half, and with six minutes left in the game, they had identical shooting percentages--30.4 percent. However, Purdue led, 43-36 because of seven made three pointers compared to NU's two, as well as some timely free throws.
Northwestern's defense, ranked fourth in the Big Ten entering the contest, did a phenomenal job as it held Purdue without an offensive basket for over ten minutes in the second half.
The Boilermakers were able to maintain a lead using free throws until the 5:06 mark of the second half, when Northwestern went on a 7-0 run to tie the game. It began with two free throws from Crawford. Cobb then grabbed a loose ball and nailed ta quick fastbreak basket to bring the 'Cats within three. With three minutes left to play, Demps came to the rescue with a long three-pointer to tie the game at 43.
Purdue led by two with 31 seconds left, until Cobb nailed a jumper from the paint to tie the game yet again. Purdue missed a jumper as time expired to send the game to overtime.
The visitors started the scoring in the extra period with a layup and free throw before Cobb hit his team-high sixth field goal of the night.
After two more free throws from Purdue, NU's hero of the second half, Demps, drained another three-pointe, this one to tie the game at 51-51.
Demps nearly sent the Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd into a frenzy with a three-point attempt with two seconds left, but the shot bounced three times off the top of the backboard and fell into the hands of a Purdue player. After a timeout, Purdue nearly completed the full-court pass-and-shoot with 0.6 seconds left, but the shot went over the rim to force a second overtime period.
This time, the 'Cats started the scoring in the second overtimes and finally took their first lead of the game on a jumper by Crawford. With its trademark tough defense, NU made the Boilermakers to use the whole shot clock on their next possession before forcing a contested shot that fell short into the hands of Lumpkin, who hit Crawford in stride. The redshirt senior nailed a jumper on the other end for the four point lead.
NU forced another turnover, Purdue's 14th of the game, and NU drew the foul, hit both free throws, and led, 59-53, with just over a minute left.
But Purdue wouldn't go down easily. After each team made a pair of free throws, the Boilermakers' Terone Johnson hit a three-pointer to bring it to a one-possession game.
Nathan Taphorn successfully inbounded the ball for the Wildcats with 11 seconds left and the Cats passed the ball down the court until Purdue fouled Demps, who hit both free throws.
Purdue took the ball down the court for one last shot at tying the game. As Ronnie Johnson squared up to take the three-point, Crawford reached up and blocked the ball, securing the 63-60 victory for the Cats.
Collins praised the never-give-up attitude of the game, from Aaron Liberman coming in to guard the ball, to Taphorn getting the ball in bounds at the end, to Lumpkin stepping up and guarding A.J. Hammons, to Cobb finishing the game despite cramps in his legs.
"All those guys are examples of how tough we've become," Collins said. "My main goal this year was to make us a scrappy, hard-nosed, blue collar team that fights...I promise that these guys are going to fight and I'm proud to be their coach."
Next up, Northwestern will welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and can be heard on AM 720 WGN.
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