17 January 2010

Recap: Northwestern 72 Purdue 64

In a Big Ten slug fest conventional wisdom would say Purdue wins the battle against Northwestern. As a sign of possible things to come as Northwestern aims to make history, Northwestern (13-4, 2-3 Big Ten) turned conventional wisdom on its head and out-slugged rugged Purdue (14-3, 2-3) and sent the Boilermakers home with a three game losing streak intact.

At one point Northwestern had literally beat up the Boilers. Defensive standout Kramer was knocked out of the game with a bad ankle while Robbie Hummel was in the locker room to get some stitches for a wound courtesy of an incidental John Shurna elbow. Plus JaJuan Johnson was on the bench in foul trouble. Without their uniforms it might have been hard for casual observers to know that this was a Purdue squad that Northwestern was dicing up.

Could this be the watershed moment in which Northwestern turns the proverbial corner? Probably not but some oddities show that Northwestern has started to become a team that bears little resemblance to past editions. The most obvious departure from previous years of Carmody's tenure was Northwestern's pure domination of the glass. This was a paradigm shift from past teams which have traditionally been the team dominated on the glass.

For the game NU had a near 2:1 ratio on the boards (NU grabbed 42 rebounds to Purdue's 23). We dug up the official media guide to see how this compared to past teams, but the rebounding margin stats were not published. We did notice that the high water mark for rebounds during the Carmody Era is 48 which came in 2002 against UM Eastern Shore. This is only 6 more than last night -- it's a very safe bet that this was the largest rebounding margin NU has enjoyed against Big Ten competition under Coach Carmody.

The other heartening aspect of last night's game was how NU stared a possible 1-4 conference start in the face and did not wilt. NU stormed out of halftime to a 7 point lead by the 16:00 mark, but Purdue showed its mettle and battled back to take the lead at the 7:30 mark. NU could have shrunk away from the challenge but instead responded in impressive fashion.

The first punch came in the form of a Crawford three pointer at about the 7 minute mark that came on an inbounds play with two seconds left on the shot clock. On the play Jeremy Nash screened Crawford's defender, and Drew immediately rose for the uncontested shot from beyond the arc. The next big punch was another Crawford three which finally gave NU a two possession lead and some vital breathing room at the two minute mark. The kill shot was Crawford's drive to the hoop for a three point play the conventional way at the 1:30 mark to extend NU's lead to 7 points. From that point Purdue was in foul mode, and NU iced the game with continued excellence from the charity stripe on this night (26-30).

Heroes beside Crawford included Juice Thompson who scored 20 points and only turned the ball over once in 39 minutes of play against intense Purdue defense. Luka Mirkovic also continued his mid-season revival with a 16 point, 10 rebound effort.

John Shurna had a quiet night for him as Purdue appeared intent on preventing him from beating them. Jeremy Nash had a few nice slashes to the hoop and got a key steal and breakaway layup down the stretch. Kyle Rowley provided some nice relief in the first half and even made all 4 of his free throw attempts. Alex Marcotullio did not attempt a shot as Purdue aggressively defended the perimeter but he did manage to facilitate the offense with some "oohh inspiring moments" from the packed house.

When it was over NU students stormed the court in celebration. My voice is still hoarse from a game that is certain to be emblazoned on my memory banks. This is what big time college basketball is all about!

Congrats to the team on a great victory! Let's keep it rolling!