January 27, 1999
By RICK GANO
AP Sports Writer
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - Evan Eschmeyer got most of his points and rebounds in
the first half Wednesday night. Then, in the closing seconds, it was his mere
presence that meant the most for Northwestern.
The 6-foot-11 Eschmeyer, playing with four fouls, forced a bad shot by
Purdue's Brian Cardinal and the Wildcats hung on for their biggest victory in
years, 54-50 over the 14th-ranked Boilermakers.
"We should be winning these games. This is not a fluke," Eschmeyer said
after scoring 17 points - 13 in the first half - and grabbing 14 rebounds -
nine by half - to become the school's career rebound leader.
"This is what we are supposed to do. The national rankings don't mean that
much. We thought coming out we were better than them. They're a great team and
we'll probably meet them again the conference tournament," Eschmeyer said.
Right now, however, the Boilermakers (15-6, 3-4) aren't a great team.
They've lost three of four and are having problems scoring, especially against
a team like Northwestern, which leads the nation in field goal percentage
defense (36 percent).
"I just missed a shot," said Cardinal, who was1-for-11 from the field,
part of Purdue's 33 percent shooting (20-of-61). "I don't think Evan tipped
it, I just missed it. We just didn't play like we were ready to play. We have
to have more emotion."
Freshman Steve Lepore got the rebound after Cardinal's miss and hit two free
throws with three seconds remaining to seal Northwestern's victory, its first
over Purdue in the last 10 meetings and only second in the last 30.
The surprising Wildcats are 12-5 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten. They've
also beaten nationally ranked Minnesota on the Gophers' home floor.
In close games, the Wildcats are learning how to win under the relentless
coaxing and criticism of coach Kevin O'Neill.
"In past years we would not have had enough. But we're confident enough now
that if we are close at the end, we will pull it off," Eschmeyer said.
"Yeah they're different," Purdue coach Gene Keady said of the Wildcats.
"They got the best big man in the conference and one of the best in the
country along with (Stanford's) Tim Young. ...We were not very good offensively
and they were good on defense and shut us down."
Eschmeyer moved past Kevin Rankin, who led Northwestern to the NIT in 1994.
Rankin had 885 rebounds for his career, eight more than Eschmeyer entering the
Three-pointers by Danny Allouche and David Newman, who also finished with 17
points, gave Northwestern a 10-point lead with four minutes left. But the
Wildcats couldn't put it away.
Alan Eldridge banked in a 3-pointer and Jaraan Cornell hit another following
a block by Eschmeyer as Purdue pulled within 52-47 with 3:13 left.
That set up a wild finish.
After Eldridge forced a five-second call, the Boilermakers nearly had a
shot-clock violation. But Cornell, who led Purdue with 15 points, grabbed
teammate Mike Robinson's desperation air-ball jumper and acrobatically laid it
over his head to make it 52-49 with 1:55 left.
Northwestern turned it over but Cornell missed a jumper, Eschmeyer rebounded
and then missed the free throw before fouling Eldridge on a drive with 39
After Eldridge hit the first and missed the second, Northwestern led 52-50
and had the ball.
Eschmeyer lost the ball at the other end, but Purdue couldn't clear and
Wildcats freshman Tavaras Hardy intercepted a pass and was fouled with 20
seconds to go.
But he also missed from the line, giving Purdue another chance before
Cardinal put up a weak shot from the baseline.
Northwestern led by as many as 16 in opening half and was up 32-20 at
halftime. The Boilermakers, behind Cornell, then started the second half with
an 11-2 run.